Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Renewable Energy: report paints hopeful picture for EU if properly planned

In the U.S., the Thanksgiving holiday is just a few days away. It's a time when we reflect on what we have, despite all the bad news that is swirling around us, and give thanks. It can be an optimistic day as we consider how far we have come as a nation and a people, and we consider a future filled with many more Thanksgivings by resolving to tackle the challenges we face.

That's a recipe for the whole world to follow as we consider our natural resources and the environment, and the threats that beset them.

So, from across the pond, coming from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK is a report that caught my eye. "Meeting Europe's Renewable Energy Targets in Harmony with Nature" examines the importance of expanding the European Union's renewable energy capabilities and how it can be done without sacrificing nature at the same time. It's a report whose goals and objectives could be applied worldwide.

With renewable energy sources providing EU countries with an average 20% of their energy by the end of the decade as a declared EU goal, the report focuses on the importance of energy sources that have a low impact on nature, such as solar panels, rooftop solar thermal systems and electric vehicles. The report categorizes wind and wave power as medium-risk, while biofuels are placed in a high-risk category.

Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said the report was
"a call to arms for nature conservation. Climate change is a grave threat to wildlife, and we need ambitious renewable energy targets in order to tackle it. Our study shows that it is possible to meet these targets without putting nature at risk--but there are consequences for nature if we get it wrong."

That, of course, is the trick: avoiding rushing into implementing a particular energy technology without proper planning to consider both short-term and long-term implications. The report reviews many of the issues regarding biofuels, which is an energy source that many feel is a disaster due to the amount of habitat destruction that goes into producing one gallon of fuel. However, the report also brings up the need to, in essence, look into a crystal ball to try to anticipate future issues regarding energy sources. An example from years past would be hydroelectric dams which produced plenty of power but over time severely damaged many rivers, estuaries, and the ecosystems they supported.

Overall, the report lays out a predominantly positive future if we can energize ourselves in committing to renewable energy and if we carry it out carefully and judiciously.
"With so much exciting and innovative technology out there from solar arrays and geothermal extraction to electric cars and wave power systems, there is clearly a healthy future for renewable energy and wildlife in the UK and Europe," Harper said.

To download the report, click here.
Learn more from the RSPB website.

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