For a very long time in modern human history, coal dominated the energy market as the cheapest, most easily available, and readily combustible source of energy. Coal energy was in fact the force behind the Industrial Revolution and continued to power factories, trains, and smelting furnaces, even into the twenty-first century.
However, today there is a huge concern to shift our energy demands from fossil fuels such as coal to renewable energy like solar, wind, and hydropower. This is due to the growing awareness about environmental issues and also the exhausting fossil reserves across the world. In the developed world, the transition is already evident, with shrinking demand for coal in the electricity sector. More and more power plants are switching over to solar and wind farms as the main source of energy to generate electricity. In the US, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that the demand for coal in the electricity sector shrank from 28% in 2018 to 22% in 2019 (source).
As declining reserves of coal impact supply and leads to increased prices, renewable energy will be seen as a more cost-effective source of energy. This will draw the commercial sector further towards renewable energy as it will not just make them more compliant with their environmental legislation but also help them cut their energy bills and improve their margins.
India has set itself a target of producing 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, out of which 100 GW will come from solar energy, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from biomass, and 5 GW from hydropower (source). Increasing reliance on non-fossil energy is especially important for India to keep threats from climate change under check while its economy grows at a steady pace.
Critics take an interesting line of attack at renewable energy: The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. This seems like a valid criticism but overlooks the stupendous growth of research and innovation in renewable energy (especially solar energy), backed by generous funding. This has greatly enhanced the storage systems so that the energy is used as and when needed. This has also placed renewable energy on the trajectory of increasing efficiency and declining equipment costs.
As fossils fade away into the background of the energy conundrum, renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and hydropower will form the dominating portfolio for our energy needs of the future.
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