Cost, environmental impact, and resilience of renewable energy under a changing climate: a review

Ahmed I. Osman*, Lin Chen, Mingyu Yang, Goodluck Msigwa, Mohamed Farghali, Samer Fawzy, David W. Rooney, Pow Seng Yap

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Energy derived from fossil fuels contributes significantly to global climate change, accounting for more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and approximately 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Alternative energy from renewable sources must be utilized to decarbonize the energy sector. However, the adverse effects of climate change, such as increasing temperatures, extreme winds, rising sea levels, and decreased precipitation, may impact renewable energies. Here we review renewable energies with a focus on costs, the impact of climate on renewable energies, the impact of renewable energies on the environment, economy, and on decarbonization in different countries. We focus on solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy. We observe that the price of solar photovoltaic energy has declined from $0.417 in 2010 to $0.048/kilowatt-hour in 2021. Similarly, prices have declined by 68% for onshore wind, 60% for offshore wind, 68% for concentrated solar power, and 14% for biomass energy. Wind energy and hydropower production could decrease by as much as 40% in some regions due to climate change, whereas solar energy appears the least impacted energy source. Climate change can also modify biomass productivity, growth, chemical composition, and soil microbial communities. Hydroelectric power plants are the most damaging to the environment; and solar photovoltaics must be carefully installed to reduce their impact. Wind turbines and biomass power plants have a minimal environmental impact; therefore, they should be implemented extensively. Renewable energy sources could decarbonize 90% of the electricity industry by 2050, drastically reducing carbon emissions, and contributing to climate change mitigation. By establishing the zero carbon emission decarbonization concept, the future of renewable energy is promising, with the potential to replace fossil fuel-derived energy and limit global temperature rise to 1.5 °C by 2050.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-764
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Biomass
  • Climate change
  • Decarbonization
  • Renewable costs
  • Renewable energy
  • Solar photovoltaics

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