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21 Renewable Energy Advantages and Disadvantages

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Energy is vital to sustaining life and for economies to grow. But how often do we think about where it comes from and what it is doing to the environment around us?


The electricity we use to power our homes, businesses and cities comes from energy sources deemed renewable, sustainable or non-renewable. The energy generation process is categorised as either clean or fossil fuel (dirty) dependent upon their resulting Greenhouse Gas emissions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

Most countries worldwide heavily depend on fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) as sources of energy to power their economies. Fossil fuels are non-renewable forms of energy. This means their fuel is from limited resources that will ultimately deplete. This will drive up overall energy costs. To add to this, fossil fuel power stations emit greenhouse gases and pollutants into the air. These have been linked to repository illnesses and even cancer.


Countries worldwide have responded to this threat by stepping up campaigns to embrace renewable forms of energy like solar energy and wind.


In fact, more energy was generated in the UK in 2019 from zero-carbon emission sources than fossil fuels. In fact, in early June 2020, the UK achieved a significant milestone by going coal-free for two months. Both these milestones are for the first time since before the Industrial Revolution.

Advantages of renewable energy

Renewable energy is generated from infinite natural resources such as the sun, wind, and water. Whereas fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are limited resource. As such, they are deemed to harm the planet when used to generate energy.


Powering our homes and businesses with renewable energy brings many advantages. It’s why more and more of the world's energy is being generated from renewable sources.


 

Before you read on - we have created an email course to guide you through the process of defining your career path into the nuclear industry. Check it out below:

 

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy describes a collection of energy technologies, solar, wind, geothermal, derived from never-ending sources and can be replenished time after time. Renewable sources are sustainable, abundant, and environmentally friendly. Unlike fossil fuels, they are not going to expire soon as they are constantly replenished.


Nuclear Energy is clean energy. This is because the energy generation process results in zero carbon emissions. However, nuclear energy cannot be deemed renewable as the current nuclear fission reactor technology utilises minerals found in the earth. These sources will, of course, deplete over time, but this is estimated to be millions of years in the future as nuclear energy is classed as a sustainable source of energy.


Sources of Renewable Energy

The most widespread sources of renewable energy include:

  • Wind: This takes advantage of wind motion to generate electricity. The heat brings about wind motion from the sun, and rotation of the earth, mainly via the Coriolis Effect.

  • Solar: It taps heat from the sun to produce electricity, heating, lighting homes and commercial buildings.

  • Hydropower: Utilises moving water to produce electricity. Moving water creates high energy that can be harnessed and turned into power.

  • Ocean: Takes advantage of the rising and falling of tides to generate electricity

  • Geothermal: Leverages heat from underneath the earth to generate electricity.

Many claims that Biomass is renewable. Biomass is an organic matter made from plants that can generate electricity, chemicals or fuels to power vehicles. We have previously written that we do not consider Biomass to be renewable.


15 Advantages of renewable energy

Using renewable energy over fossil fuels has several advantages. Here are some of the top benefits:


#1 Renewable energy will never run out

Renewables utilises resources straight from the environment. The sun, the wind, the tide, the Earth’s core will never run out. They are sustainable and abundant natural resources. This cannot be said of fossil fuel resources with an environmental (and monetary) cost associated with fuel mining.

There is a strong possibility that oil, gas, and coal will run out in the future. By generating electricity from renewable sources of clean energy, we can ensure that the Earth’s natural resources are not depleted. If we remain reliant on fossil fuels, we risk losing our ability to generate energy in the future.


Nuclear energy is not a renewable energy source. It is, however, a sustainable energy source. It is calculated that there is enough nuclear fuel to power nuclear fission reactors for millions of years. There is the opportunity for nuclear to become renewable by harvesting nuclear fuel for the ocean. Additionally, nuclear fusion would provide a truly renewable source of energy.


#2 Renewable Energy is Reliable

Of course, if it is cloudy and still day, the energy from wind and solar power plants dramatically reduces the amount. However, with a solid infrastructure in place, this can be overcome. Evidence shows that spreading wind, solar, tidal, thermal plants across a large geographical area minimises power generation interruption. Couple this with a clean energy baseload – such as nuclear energy – and you have a virtually perfect energy mix.


Compare this to fossil fuels which have a large risk associated with the security of its energy generation. As fossil fuels are a commodity, they are suspectable to market fluctuations. These can be variables such a war, trade disputes, changes in energy policies, political instabilities, and changes in energy prices. These vulnerabilities in the price and availability of fossil fuels drain a country’s economy and energy policies. It does not take much for a fossil fuel source to fail to lead to blackouts across a region or even a Country.


The fuel for nuclear fission reactors is mined and is subject to the same risks as fossils fuels. However, the energy source is so dense that you need very little fuel to power a reactor. There is no such risk associated with such market fluctuations as with oil and gas. There is also the option to reprocess spent fuel. This allows for 96% of the fuel to be recycled. Reprocessing is a costly but very effective process.


#3 The maintenance requirements of renewable energy are lower

There is less maintenance needed for renewables. This is true in the main. Solar panels and wind turbines have few or no moving parts. Also, they don’t rely on flammable fuel sources. Less maintenance provides time and money savings. As such, operating costs are generally low. This means large profits for operators and cheap electricity for consumers.


The operating costs of a nuclear power plant are low. Once it is in operation, it continues to generate electricity 24/7. The reliability of nuclear power plants is above 93%. This provides a secure baseload of energy to support a clean energy mix.


#4 Renewables save money and provide profitability

Renewable energy provides cost savings. This trend is forecast to continue as the technology continues to become more efficient. As such, energy prices will continue to be driven down.


Efficiencies in operations and maintenance, along with no need to pay to refuel, provides huge opportunities. Harnessing the power of the sun and wind provides for hundreds of thousands in savings. This is in stark contrast to fossil fuels which needs to be replenished, creating increases in costs.


Increased environmental considerations and advances in technology mean that renewables are only going to get cheaper. Conversely, as fossil fuels become increasingly sparse and the potential for a ‘carbon tax’ becomes real, their prices will start to reflect this.


Cost is the biggest negative associated with nuclear energy production currently. The build costs of a new nuclear power plant make it often difficult to deem it commercially viable. However, with investment in multiple units, there are opportunities for savings. Sizewell C in the UK is forecast to cost 30% less to build than its identical predecessor at Hinkley Point C. This will bring the price per megawatt-hour down to be competitive with renewable energy.


#5 Renewable energy has numerous health and environmental benefits

Renewable energy is associated with pictures of windmills in the beautiful green countryside. This portrayal is because renewable sources of energy do not emit pollutants into the air. This is great news for the environment.


Fossil fuel energy sources a depicted with plumes of black smoke. This is because they emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. Not only this, they release other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. This is proven to increase the frequency of extreme weather events and increases the temperatures across the globe.

Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy reduces our reliance on fossil fuels. This reduces the carbon footprint associated with energy production. Which in turn reduces harmful pollutants in the air, which provides general health benefits. When you consider the number of money governments spend on health care. Renewable, clean energy looks like a no-brainer.


The above is true of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is clean energy. Nuclear energy emits no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air. Incidents have tarnished the industry's portrayal at Fukushima, depictions made by The Simpson and the Chernobyl disaster. However, nuclear energy provides the same benefits to the environment. The same clean air. The same health benefits as renewable energy.


#6 Renewable energy builds stronger communities

Green energy is being put at the heart of communities, providing a fair share of the power generated by community-led projects. This means that consumers pay a fair price for electricity. Providers are similarly encouraged to invest in local communities.


Renewable energy tends to be in remote locations. However, they bring social and economic benefits to their surrounding area. Investment in the area is often seen as part of the social impact strategy of the provider as such social values are at the heart of the renewable energy industry.

Nuclear encitiesergy historically has been positioned in remote locations. The area surrounding nuclear power plants thrive by providing well-paid jobs to a local workforce and opportunities for businesses to make money. Current initiatives by EDF Energy have built on this, making public commitments in the process. The new fleet of SMRs will provide this not just from the location of the power plants themselves. But also around the locations of the factories that the modules will be built and shipped around the world.


#7 Renewables lower reliance on foreign energy sources

Renewable energy is local energy. You are not reliant on imported energy. A Country utilising renewable energy could be self-reliant. This may not seem like too big a deal. However, it is a big weight of the economics of any country. Less reliance on imported energy provides for a stronger economy.


This is particularly true of the UK. The decline in North Sea production has meant that the UK has gone from a net exporter to a net importer. This change has occurred over the last three decades. The UK is now reliant on Norway and Russia for non-renewable oil & gas. Paying more to import this in the process.


Nuclear fuel is mined in several locations—Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Niger, and Russia in the main. Often the country of origin of the fuel being used is from abroad. However, due to the volume of fuel needed within a nuclear reactor and the relative ease that it can be stored, nuclear energy provides a means to be less reliant on imported energy.


#8 Renewable Energy has stabilised Global Energy Prices

Most of the costs associated with renewable energy are in the initial build phase. As the technology enters operation, there is no reliance on any other resources. This means that the price of energy is stable across the globe. There are no fluctuations because of the availability of fuel, as is the case with fossil fuels.


This is a similar situation with nuclear energy. There is a need to replenish fuel from time to time. But the amount of fuel needed is small compared to fossil fuels. Also, if a Country employs reprocessing of spent fuel, you can reuse around 95%.


#9 Renewable energy leads to job creation

Renewable energy is a labour-intensive industry. As such, it creates jobs. This makes economic sense as new, stable, long-term jobs are created. Renewable energy has been seen to create more jobs in Germany in recent years. Whatever your views of renewable energy, there is no arguing that it creates thousands of stable jobs.


This contrasts with fossil fuels, in which the profitability of energy production benefits from low labour costs. Renewable energy is known to invest in its workforce, creating more jobs in the process. This increases local incomes, and there are often community benefits to local businesses that prosper because of the renewable energy sector.


Nuclear energy provides thousands of jobs. The latest nuclear new build in the UK at Hinkley Point C will create 25,000 jobs during its construction. There will remain around 5,000 long-term jobs to support the operations of the plant.


#10 Renewable energy is a technology

Over time, renewable energy will become cheaper than any technology. Improved production and installation processes will drive down the price. Existing technologies cover solar power, hydroelectricity, thermal and wind power. There is huge government and corporate investment in these areas. The efficiencies will surely follow.


The nuclear energy sector is the most exciting in the world right now when it comes to innovation. There have been stepped changes in the new 4th generation of nuclear reactors. The 5th generation adds to this by making Small Modular Reactors a reality. All of this innovation, coupled with the commitment to build many-of-a-kind, will make nuclear energy more competitively priced. This is without considering the ongoing developments in the nuclear fusion race.


#11 Renewable energy is offered in many formats

Renewable energy is an important part of a clean energy mix. The fact that it comes in so many forms makes its use unlimited. The currently well-known applications include wind farms, solar panels, and hydropower. However, the application of renewable energy is only limited by innovative ideas.


We’ve had solar panels on calculators for years. Before them, the large wheel was placed in rivers to power grinding mills. In some cities, windmills are placed in the middle of busy roads to harness the wind of a passing bus. The applications in the future a mind-boggling.

renewable energy advantages
renewable energy advantages

Although the technologies associated with nuclear energy generation are as diverse as the renewables sector, they do have many applications that may not be immediately apparent. Nuclear reactors are used to generate electricity as part of a nuclear power plant. They are also used to generate power for boats and submarines. Nuclear energy has power spacecraft. There are also concepts for nuclear-powered trains.


#12 Risk management and resilience

Renewable energy presents a fantastic opportunity. Increasingly businesses are turning to self-generation and using renewable energy to do so. Solar panels on a factory roof. Biogas from wastewater. Wind turbines on disused land. These are all ways companies are doing seeking to utilise renewable energy.


By producing their own energy, organisations can significantly reduce their reliance on the electricity grid. This provides during times of peak demand when electricity prices are at their highest and the assurance of power during a black-out due to the amount of electricity needed. There is also the added benefit of selling electricity back into the grid when they generate surplus energy.


This is not entirely limited to companies. More homeowners are choosing to utilise renewable energy on their property. Seeking the above benefits in the process.


Nuclear energy is the only secure source of clean energy that we have available to us. It is available 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. 365 days of the year. When used as a baseload to support the peaks and troughs of renewable energy generation, you find the perfect clean energy mix. Companies can have the assurance that their lights will always stay on.


#13 Renewable energy for corporate social responsibility and positive public relations

Let’s not beat about the bush. Advocacy of renewable energy is good PR. Making commitments as part of a business’s CSR strategy to reduce your environmental footprint or source all energy renewably will only enhance a business's public perceptions. Or individual, for that matter. ‘Sustainable living’ provides a good basis for strong PR. Putting renewable energy at the top of your list will only strengthen this.

The nuclear industry has done a poor job of PR in the past. As such, many myths and misnomers surround technology. 5 years ago, it would not be feasible that nuclear energy would be anywhere close to being part of a company's CSR strategy. In fact, it would more than likely be deemed bad PR.


Fast forward to today, and the tide is starting to turn. Nuclear energy still has a way to improve its image. A great example of this is Swedish electricity provider Karnfull Energy. They offer their clients 100% nuclear tariffs. The company is growing quickly and has plans to provide similar offerings across the world. Nuclear energy is clean energy, and people are starting to want to be associated with the technology.


#14 Improved employee engagement

There is much research to suggest that employees have a strong sense of purpose and are much more innovative. The feeling that the work that you are doing provides you with satisfaction helps to spur innovation. As such, a brand that focuses on sustainability by utilising renewable energy creates a more competitive brand.


There is evidence that a company creating a purpose makes the company a more attractive place to work. Employees are also much more likely to provide a personal commitment to a company. There is also evidence that it will lead to a strengthened supply chain.


Nuclear energy fits right into this box. It is clean, sustainable and provides employees with a sense of purpose. The sense of fulfilment within the nuclear industry is high. The industry is also one of the best paid, which provides an added sense of contribution to society.


8 Disadvantages of renewable energy

Renewable energy has many benefits. But it isn’t all positive. Here are some disadvantages of renewable energy.


#1 High upfront capital outlay for renewable energy

Wind turbines, solar panels, hydroelectricity plants. Manufacture, build, careful planning and installation. Renewable energy generation facilities need to require a huge financial outlay. Renewable energy is often placed in remote areas. This means additional cost of power lines to get the electricity generated to towns and cities. In the long-term, they will provide savings. But they are expensive.


Nuclear energy often finds it difficult to demonstrate commercial viability. The upfront costs associated with recent nuclear new builds are huge. Furthermore, their construction has tended to take much longer than forecast. This is a problem.


There is hope. Build costs at Sizewell C in the UK are forecast to be 30% cheaper than previous builds. This is in line with the Nuclear Sector Deal. Advanced and Small Modular Reactors to come with a commitment to keep costs down. M