Green light for our planet
Use your energy to protect the environment
Electricity accompanies us everywhere. It helps us to master our everyday lives efficiently and, above all, comfortably. Hours of often tedious work can now be done at the touch of a button, the press of a switch or the flip of a lever. You are hungry? You turn on the stove and cook something. It's dark? You press the light switch. You are bored? You switch on the television. Whether in leisure, in the home, in transport, at work or in social contacts - we use electricity in almost every aspect of our lives. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the electricity we use is doing great harm to our planet. Well, not the electricity itself, but the energy sources that supply it to us. Renewable energy sources are supposed to displace fossil energy suppliers. But what is the difference between the two? Where does the electricity come from? And above all: are renewable energies really the solution? You will find this and much more information in this blog post.
Where does our electricity come from?
For electricity to reach our homes, it must first be generated. There are different ways of doing this, which have different effects on the environment. We as end consumers can decide whether we want to buy ecologically generated electricity or whether we prefer to use electricity from fossil fuels. However, it is important to clarify that the electricity that reaches the end consumer flows through one and the same electricity grid, regardless of whether it was generated from renewable sources or fossil fuels. It is true that the more energy generated from green sources, the lower the overall environmental impact. Sustainable energy production is the cheapest and cleanest way to generate electricity in the EU, and for this reason fossil fuels should be replaced by renewable energy (Umwelt Bundesamt, 2013). Therefore, it also makes sense to use ecological electricity providers to protect the climate and the environment.
Renewable Energies vs. Fossil Fuels - The Who's Who of Energy Sources:
Energy sources are called renewable if they are practically inexhaustible or if they constantly produce themselves naturally. The sun and the wind, for example, tirelessly donate energy that can be converted into electricity by us humans. But hydroelectric power plants and geothermal energy are also a way of generating electricity. Fossil energy sources such as oil, coal and gas, on the other hand, are only available in limited quantities and cannot be generated artificially. Apart from the fact that our reserves of these fossil fuels are almost exhausted, their extraction and use also massively damages our environment and the climate. To generate electricity, these materials have to be burned, which produces large quantities of greenhouse gases and releases them into the atmosphere. For this reason, a switch to less or even non-climate-damaging energy sources is inevitable (Dlapa, 2022). This switch from fossil to climate-neutral energy sources is called the energy transition and is intended to create inde-pendence from conventional fuels, electricity and heat (Erneuerbare Energien, 2023).
What types of renewable energy are there?
Currently, wind and solar energy are the energy sources on which the strongest focus is placed. To generate electricity from wind, many large wind turbines are needed. These take part of the energy from the wind by making the rotor turn. This rotational energy can then be converted into electricity by a generator. Wind energy is currently the most important driver of the energy transition.
Another currently strongly promoted option for generating electricity is solar energy. Photovoltaic systems convert solar radiation into energy and feed it into our electricity grid. The newer solar installations are among the cheapest technologies for generating renewable energy. In addition, solar collectors are also used to heat drinking water or to generate industrial processes.
Biomass can also be used to generate electricity and heat. It can be used in solid, liquid and gaseous form and is also used as a fuel. (Erneuerbare Energien, 2023).
The major challenges of the energy transition and why we need it anyway –
Advantages and disadvantages of renewable energies
Efficient and prudent use of energy should secure the livelihoods of future generations and end dependence on imported fossil and climate-damaging energy sources. (Die österreichische Wärmestrategie, n.d.). However, the use of renewable energies also offers many other advantages:
The energy transition can protect and support the climate, as around 70 percent of global emissions are caused by the use of fossil energy sources.
Renewable energy sources are just that: RENEWABLE.
These resources are inexhaustible and can therefore be used and converted into electricity indefinitely. The demand for energy grows with each passing day and fossil sources are almost exhausted.
Not every country has fossil fuels and is therefore dependent on outside suppliers. Being dependent on outside resources may cause delicate political situations and power imbalances, which can be removed by switching to renewables.
Since the energy is produced and sold in the own country, the associated revenues must also be taxed accordingly and thus also bring an enormous added value for the own country.
The switch to renewable energies will also create more and more new jobs. Experts currently expect around 100,000 new so-called green jobs (see green entrepreneurship) by 2030.
Generating electricity from renewable sources would also ensure more peace around the world. The lack of fossil fuels means that these are also fiercely contested and thus also provide the basis for many political disputes (Dlapa, 2022).
But why is the energy transition not yet complete, when renewable energy sources have so many points in their favour? Even these inexhaustible energy resources have a few disadvantages:
- The implementation of the energy transition is of course associated with various costs. In addition, at the beginning of the introduction of renewable energies, fossil energy sources were still heavily promoted and subsidised. However, this is no longer the case today; for example, small-scale systems for own electricity consumption are subsidised by the state and are therefore now even more economically advantageous.
- Even though renewable energy generation is in itself much more environmentally friendly than fossil energy, the construction of plants to generate this energy is often associated with massive interventions in nature. Habitats of fish and aquatic plants are threatened by the construction of hydropower plants and can attack or even destroy ecosystems. However, solar panels and electricity generation by wind turbines still offer some possibilities for expansion.
- Another point of criticism is the limited availability of renewable energies. If, for example, the weather does not play along, electricity shortages can occur because the energy generated is difficult to store. However, there are already some technical innovations that offer practicable and, above all, affordable solutions for the future. Pumped storage power plants, for example, can not only generate energy with the help of hydropower, but also store it. Ultimately, security of supply can be guaranteed in the long term through renewable energies. (Dlapa, 2022).
What can I do to make a change?
All EU member states are called upon to make their contribution to the energy transition, and all companies share responsibility. But each and every individual can also have an influence through his or her actions. There are many ways to minimise your own energy consumption. Here are a few tips on how YOU can help:
1) Lower your heating temperature and ventilate only intermittently.
2) Use your household appliances efficiently. For example, only turn on the dishwasher when it's really full or let your hair air dry instead of blow drying it. Cooking with a lid also saves electricity, as it takes much less time to reach the right temperature. (Energiespartipps im Alltag-Energie sparen, Klima schützen, Kosten senken, 2022):
3.) Carpool or use public transport. This is not only good for the environment, but also for your wallet.
4) Turn off the lights as soon as you leave a room (REPoerEU-Erschwingliche, sichere und nachhaltige Energie für Europa., n.d.).
5.) Use water-saving shower heads and taps. Washing your hands with cold water and soap instead of hot water also helps to save electricity (Energiespartipps im Alltag-Energie sparen, Klima schützen, Kosten senken, 2022).
Developing Green Skills and Knowledge
Even though you have already learned a lot about energy management and renewable energies in this blog post, there is still a lot more information on this topic. So that you can become an energy management expert, here are a few tips for you on how to expand your green skills and knowledge:
- Try to create an overview of your own energy consumption and thus gain an awareness of your own energy management. (Energy saving tips in everyday life - save energy, protect climate, reduce costs, 2022).
- Find out what kind of electricity you use and find out if it is the most environmentally friendly option. Simply call your energy provider or send an email and ask for information.
- Ask your workplace which energy management system they use and why.
- Make sure you have the right mindset. Ask yourself: "What do I know about Energy Management" and try to fill your gaps. Ask this question also to your colleagues, your social environment or your classmates. Think about the topic and draw attention to it. In this way, you can exchange ideas with your peers and learn many new tips and tricks on how you and, above all, you can bring about change together.
1.) What are renewable energies and what are fossil energies?
2) What are the advantages and disadvantages of an energy transition?
3) How can I save electricity? (Situations with suggestions for solutions)
- Die österreichische Wärmestrategie. (n.d.). Bundesministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Energie, Mobilitä, Innovation und Technologie https://www.bmk.gv.at/themen/klima_umwelt/energiewende/waermestrategie/strategie.html [11.09.2023].
- Dlapa, C. (2022, 29. April). Erneuerbare Energien: Vorteile & Nachteile im Überblick. Green Journal. https://greenjournal.greenpeace.at/klima/energiewende/erneuerbare-energien-vorteile-und-nachteile-im-ueberblick#was-sind-erneuerbare-energien [08.09.2023]
- Energiespartipps im Alltag-Energie sparen, Klima schützen, Kosten senken. (2022, 10. Oktober). Bundesregierung.de. https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/aktuelles/energiespartipps-im-alltag-2041874#:~:text=Wer%20mit%20Deckel%20kocht%2C%20reduziert,das%20circa%20acht%20Prozent%20Strom [15.09.2023]
- Erneuerbare Energien. (2023). Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz. https://www.bmwk.de/Redaktion/DE/Dossier/erneuerbare-energien.html [09.09.2022]
- Kommt Ökostrom auch wirklich aus der Steckdose, wenn ich Ökostrom bestelle? (2013, 03. August). Umwelt Bundesamt. https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/service/uba-fragen/kommt-oekostrom-auch-wirklich-aus-der-steckdose
- REPoerEU-Erschwingliche, sichere und nachhaltige Energie für Europa. (n.d.). Europäische Kommission https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/repowereu-affordable-secure-and-sustainable-energy-europe_de [11.09.2023].
- Wie funktioniert ein Windrad? (n.d.) Kleine-Windkraft.at. https://www.kleinewindkraft.at/?xmlval_ID_KEY%5B0%5D=1276