We’re not doing badly so far as ‘green’ attitudes go. More people than ever before feel positively about renewable energy, and would like to see a greater global commitment to reducing carbon emissions. We’re more ‘eco-conscious’ than ever before. However, with powerful voices promoting fossil fuels, and high-profile (if scientifically incorrect) denouncers of anthropocentric climate change, it is more important than ever that ordinary people’s eco-positive feelings are turned into action. What could encourage more people to choose renewable energy sources, and reduce their carbon footprint?
Making It Cheaper
Part of the problem is the ‘Organic Complex’. When looking for energy suppliers, most people will be swayed by cost considerations over environmental considerations. In general, things which are seen to be environmentally ethical are also perceived to be more expensive. In the case of things like organic foods (which are produced small-scale, and more labour-intensively, meaning smaller profit margins), this is indeed the case. However, it’s no longer the case at all with renewable energy. The science of renewables, and the production methods associated with it have been getting better, more efficient, and cheaper for some time now. As we improve our knowledge and our ability to work with renewable forms of energy, so that technology becomes a lot more accessible on a wider scale. In January 2017, solar and wind power actually became cheaper than fossil fuels - and things are likely to continue in that direction. The public, however, needs to be made aware of this if they’re to choose renewables over fossil fuels.
Making It Easier
The great thing about solar power in particular (and wind power, to a limited degree) is that householders can directly generate their own energy if they want to. When the UK government rolled out a solar panel installation scheme - offering subsidies and advice on solar panels for homes - the nation’s roofs swiftly filled with panels. When it’s made easy for people to go renewable, they will. However, with the larger energy companies all trading predominantly in fossil fuels, it’s often seen as a hassle to specifically seek out and switch to renewable suppliers. People are reluctant to have this hassle - particularly when they don’t fully understand either the technology or the inevitable wranglings over contracts which will occur at both ends of the process. Not to mention the fact that households which work with gas must go through the laborious process of switching gas appliances for renewable electric ones. For people to go renewable, either big energy companies need to be persuaded to source their product renewably (something that some of them are certainly doing), renewable companies need to make their process less complex, or governments as a whole need to generally smooth people’s path to renewables.
Making It Clearer
A big problem with renewables is that some people feel a bit bogged down in the science of it all. As a society, we’ve become accustomed to the idea that energy ‘just happens’ - you flick on the light and the electricity ‘just happens’, you don’t think too hard (if at all) about how it got there or how it was generated in the first place. Conversations about renewables inevitably come with a lot of scientific and environmental baggage, which some people find confusing. There are two options here:
1 - Educate people further about the science of energy generation, so that they understand it more.
2 - Focus more on the efficiency and benefits of renewable energy when promoting it.
Both options have advantages and disadvantages. Following the former approach can help people to truly understand why renewables are important, which is vital on a number of levels. However, following the latter approach could help renewable energy companies to seem more like ‘traditional’ energy companies (which do not, after all, detail the processes of their plants to customers). Focusing more on the kind of specific, efficient service the customer will receive than the wider benefits could perhaps encourage people to consider renewable energy as a serious and viable option for their own homes. On the other hand, environmentalism is a big draw for some people. Perhaps a happy balance between the two can be found - but certainly something needs to change in the way that renewables are promoted and explained to the general public!