Series 1, Post 1: Myths About Renewable Energy – featuring costs

We’re starting off the New Year with a blog series that tackles questions most frequently asked about renewable energy. 

Imagine living in a world free of pollution, oil spills and nuclear waste. Take a minute to visualize a world where climate change is no longer a daunting reality that continues to  worsen, because we did everything possible to avoid any further warming. Allow yourself to truly envision a world where energy was clean, safe and most importantly, available for all.

It may seem impossible to believe a world like that can exist, but that is partially due to many misconceptions and myths surrounding clean energy. This blog series will take an in-depth look at many of those myths misconceptions, while also clarifying the truths of renewable energy and how we can use those truths to begin a clean energy revolution.

Let’s start out with the most common myth about renewable energy…… It’s Expensive.  

In recent years there has been much debate over the cost of wind and solar energy, compared to coal and nuclear energy. While on paper wind and solar energy has appeared to be more expensive in the past, there were massive costs for coal and nuclear energy that weren’t taken into account. One thing in particular is the input cost. For instance, while one needs to purchase coal for coal-fired power plants to produce energy, wind and solar energy don’t have input costs – since sunshine and wind are free.  The upshot, they substitute costlier production in the energy market, dropping wholesale energy prices. This is great for consumers like you and I, yet – expectedly – upsets the manufacturers of “dirty” energy.

Taking that a step further and looking at the additional environmental costs associated with coal mining, you’ll see that accounting for those hidden costs, conservatively doubles to triples energy costs from coal in the United States. Just because the substantial overheads of water pollution, health impacts, and climate change aren’t taken into consideration when calculating fossil fuel energy pricing, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

The true picture is that the cost of renewable energy is falling, both wind and solar power. Solar power is essentially slated to become the most inexpensive power source in many countries around the world within the next several years. And while critics of renewable energy can cherry-pick certain examples to plead their case, many of those critics don’t take into account the broader external costs discussed above, particularly over the long term, which gives consumers a false impression that one fuel source is cheaper than another. So bottom line: it’s worth looking at the case for the defense.

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