Forbes – Why Intermittent And Firm Renewable Sources Are Necessary To Combat The Climate Crisis
Whether we’re prepared for it or not, it’s clear that we have reached a pivotal moment in our world’s history. Climate change is here, and its adverse effects can no longer be ignored. As we saw throughout 2022 (another year marked by severe weather events), the climate crisis is affecting all of us, regardless of location or historical precedence. The time has come for us to take a long, hard look at our existing infrastructure and develop innovative, thoughtful solutions that better prepare us for unforeseen events. A key component to actualizing this future is prioritizing the development of firm renewable energy sources.
Firm renewables, like biogas and geothermal energy, are capable of being continuously generated and are constantly available, regardless of outside forces, such as extreme weather. This makes them especially reliable and an invaluable component of the clean energy transition because they enhance resiliency and grid security. As natural disasters continue to become more commonplace, it is crucial that we adapt our infrastructure to be especially resilient. Let’s stop looking at extreme weather in calendar segments. These seasons traditionally defined by a few months of time, like wildfire and hurricane seasons, have come to extend well beyond their usual confines.
Last year, the United States saw one of its warmest years on record, and Florida experienced its most severe hurricane since 1935. The Western U.S. continued to grapple with the effects of its megadrought, the worst in over 1,200 years, and Kentucky was slammed with disastrous flooding. These are just a few examples of the many adverse weather events that have wreaked havoc across the country. In fact, over the past year, natural disasters exacerbated by climate change left thousands of U.S. citizens displaced and cost the country $165 billion in damages.
As the saying goes, “It takes a village,” and the same holds true when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. It’s going to take extensive collaboration to fight against climate change, yet there is progress being made.
The Net Zero Tracker collaboration has noted a substantial year-on-year increase in the number of countries, cities and organizations that have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And a recent Deloitte report showed nearly 3 in 5 executives have implemented ESG working groups to drive forward a more sustainable future. Actions like these demonstrate an invigorated commitment to progressing the clean energy transition, but we still have a long way to go. It’s crucial we take substantive steps now to decarbonize our infrastructure, improve resiliency and diversify our energy portfolio so that we are not reliant on any one source of power.
Traditionally, when people think of switching to more sustainable solutions, they think of solar installations or wind turbines, which are intermittent forms of renewable energy. Intermittent renewable energy sources are great options for those looking to invest in cleaner forms of power because of their smaller size, ease of installation and broad distribution ability.
But because they draw power from natural sources, intermittent solutions are not continuously available, nor always reliable, since they are unduly influenced by uncontrollable factors like sunlight and wind power. This means that periods of extreme weather could leave local residents without access to electricity for extended lengths of time. To put this in context, a single, devastatingly large hurricane could take out miles of wind turbines, leaving residents without power for significant stretches.
To address this issue, it’s crucial that we move to adopt a varied array of renewable, energy-efficient solutions, and firm renewable sources are a key component of that. Firm renewables fill a gap left open by the inconsistency of intermittent solutions. They are not dependent on outside, unmanageable forces and provide decarbonized electricity that is clean and cost-effective.
While mass adoption of firm renewables is still coming into view on a national scale, there are positive signs from leaders in the clean energy transition, like Hawaii and California, that implementation is on the horizon. Hawaiian Electric, the largest supplier of electricity in the state of Hawaii, announced plans last year to accelerate its adoption of firm renewable energy sources over the next decade. In California, climate activists continue to advocate for firm renewables as a necessity for the state if it hopes to achieve a net-zero carbon economy by 2045.
As state legislators and corporate leaders create road maps for reaching decarbonization targets and adopting renewable energy solutions, it’s important that adoption is viewed through a holistic lens. While firm renewables are certainly not the only key to the clean energy transition, they are a critical component. To combat the climate crisis, it’s essential that we incorporate a diverse portfolio of solutions that combine intermittent and firm renewable sources of energy, especially as we contend with increasingly severe natural disasters all year round.
It’s time to step up. Extreme weather events are only continuing to worsen. We need to rethink our infrastructure and prioritize the development of clean energy solutions to address climate change. It’s up to us to lead the transition.
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By: George Sakellaris (Ameresco)