Just imagine if you had a chance to invest in the IT sector in the 1970s and 80s, or say in Google in 1998, or in Facebook in 2003. Sounds like an idea that can make you rich? This is where Renewable Energy is at right now. It might still seem nascent at this point but there is rarely any doubt that it will be huge.
Renewable energy is a sector that has been gaining momentum steadily over the years and is now emerging to become a genuine competitor to traditional fossil fuel based energy consumption.
As we know, our modern global civilization depends on humongous quantities of energy for its survival. Let’s try to put things in perspective. In 1973, the world consumed an equivalent of over 6000 million tons of oil in a year, which is equal to over 71 trillion units of electricity. Forty years later in 2013, that number has more than doubled to over 13,000 million tons of oil equivalent, or over 152 trillion units of electricity a year (Source: International Energy Agency 2013) . A lot of this new demand has come from emerging economies from the global south like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa.
However, our traditional manner of harnessing energy, namely the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, is no longer a tenable option for achieving global energy security.
Apart from the adverse environmental problems created by the burning of large amounts of fossil fuels, they are also a limited resource and one that the world is quickly running out of.
Well, let’s just put it this way, at our current rate of growth, we are expected to exhaust all of the world’s oil reserves within the next 52 years. Similarly, natural gas will be all gobbled up in the next 55 years and coal will be exhausted in the next 109 years (Source: BP: Statistical View of World Energy).
The fact remains that if humanity has to continue enjoying its current rate of growth and if people across the world expect to continue to live the lifestyles they have become accustomed to, or indeed dream of better ones, it is imperative that the world looks to new, renewable, clean sources of energy, or green energy.
Over the last few years, we have seen extraordinary amounts of money being invested into renewable energy projects by individuals, institutions, corporations, and governments across the world.
Perhaps one of the best barometers of looking to where one should invest is to examine the portfolio of the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Warren Buffet. Mr Buffet recently consolidated his commitment to green energy with an investment of US$15 billion into green energy projects around the world. Google has similarly invested over US$1 billion via the Google Foundation to set up solar energy plants across the Mojave Desert in California and Arizona, with an aim that the company, which single-handedly is responsible for using 0.013% of the total energy consumed in the world, will be powered entirely through green energy in the future.
One of the biggest perceived drawbacks to investing in green energy has been the idea that solar and wind power is too expensive to compete with the likes of coal or crude oil. However, technological advancements have seen the price per unit of green energy sources fall consistently over the last decade. A solar panel today costs less than a quarter of what it used to cost back in 2008. Global corporations and governments are slowly waking up to the potential renewable energy possesses.
One hour of the total solar energy that the Earth receives from the sun would be enough to power the world for a year.
A research paper from the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany calculated that a massive solar farm 254 km by 254 km positioned in the Sahara Desert could generate all the world’s energy needs.
Whole nations are discovering the potential of green energy and how it can augment and eventually replace fossil fuels in their nation’s energy mix. In the first half of 2014, more than 31% of Germany’s electricity came from renewable sources. Germany and Norway have recently approved the construction of the NordLink, a 623 km undersea cable tunnel system that will allow Germany and Norway to share renewable energy produced via solar, wind, hydroelectric, and biogas power.
The power of internet is being leveraged to create the world’s first crowd-funded green energy projects and social media is abuzz with the latest developments in green energy. As the sector continues to grow at a rapid pace, there has rarely been a better time to invest in green energy.