The importance of renewable energy cannot be overstated. And while it appears to be an abstract challenge that can only be solved by behind-the-scene solutions, there is no question that the problem of air pollution is a highly visible one.
Indeed, it is estimated that air pollution causes more than a million deaths a year in China alone, as well as destroying more than 20 tonnes of food crops such as rice, wheat, and soybeans, valued at roughly US$38 billion.
Around the world, poor air quality is blamed for more than 6 million premature deaths per year. Specifically, a UNICEF study found that 17 million infants live in areas where air pollution is higher than international limits. This isn’t limited to developing nations either; air quality affects those living in developed and affluent nations, too.
Closer to home, dangerous levels of air pollution in Indonesia’s Borneo resulted in school closure in September this year. Though this stemmed from forest fires, it perfectly underscores the vital importance of moving away from dirty fossil fuel to clean sources of energy as soon as possible.
After all, the primary source of air pollution is the combustion of fossil fuel. The resulting pollution is made up of gases and particulate matter, both of which are generated as a side effect when power plants and vehicles generate energy from coal, oil and natural gas.
That these pollutants are extremely harmful to humans and living beings is a given. In addition, the resulting greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide are also perpetually trapped in the atmosphere. This contributes directly to global warming and in turn, destabilizes the global climate.
The only viable solution lies in renewable energy, whether obtained from wind and solar energy, or hydroelectricity. These clean energy resources can significantly reduce GHG emissions with no air pollution.
Thankfully, the levelized cost of renewable energy has now reached price parity with fossil fuel, and prices are expected to continue dipping. Ultimately, achieving a deep reduction in carbon emission entails a two-pronged approach to reduce energy consumption through efficiency improvements in tandem with a shift to renewables.
A good example would be Schneider Electric’s East Asia and Japan regional headquarters at Kallang that leverages on EcoStruxure Solutions to achieve carbon neutrality by reducing energy consumption and shifting to renewable energy sources for greater sustainability.
Nations are rising to the challenge. Singapore, for instance, has set a target to power some 350,000 homes by solar energy by 2030. This won’t be easy for the land-scarce nation-state, of course – and will require the installation of photovoltaic panels on top of buildings, on reservoirs and even at sea.
Companies can take leadership too, such as Schneider Electric client DaVita. A leading provider of kidney care services in the U.S., the company announced two long-term renewable energy power purchase agreements (PPA) that together will address its North American operations and avoid carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the annual output of 52,000 homes.
As governments and leading companies take material action on carbon emissions with renewables, they drive not only energy independence and cost reduction, but improvements in human health from reduced air pollution. Viewed this way, the shift to renewables is not only an economic imperative but is a moral one.
For more information about how companies can tackle the issue of carbon emissions, Schneider Electric published several insights into electric utility strategies to help companies make the shift towards a sustainable future.