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Objective

Discuss about the Factors Affecting Sustainability Development.

According to recent studies, research on renewable energies is at an all-time high, a factor that has caused production costs to reduce tremendously over the past ten years. It’s because of such trends that a study was commissioned by Ecomagination of General Electric to identify the trends in renewable energies, particularly in renewable electricity (Stark, Pless, Logan, Zhou & Arent, 2015). This study was commissioned to identify the cost expenditures experienced when investing in renewable energy technologies. The Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis was responsible for the study which was done in combination with the works of scientists from the NREL department (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) in late 2014.

As stated above, this case study focused on renewable energies, more so the wind and solar power that at the time accounted for more than half of all power productions in the past ten years (NREL 2015). Moreover, the study focused on the general assessment of the technologies and the costs experienced when generating the power. Similarly, this report will focus on the general analysis of renewable energies, especially those that offer a safe substitute for traditional power options. Furthermore, this report will highlight the cost implications at the generation level of power production, it will not consider the complexity of market distribution and transmission. Instead, its goal will be to offer solutions to existing power problems in a sustainable manner.

To offer viable options for power generation through renewable technologies in order to meet the planet’s sustainability requirements. NREL case study highlights some of the trends in renewable technologies where it provides factual information to support the claims of the industry including the critical cost investments. Current and future investment are critical to sustainability as they determine the capacity to deliver power requirements while meeting the needs of the planet, these are the key factors in sustainability options (Baiorunos 2011).

Sustainability arouses great attention in the modern society where capitalism seems to influence all decisions. At its core, sustainability is the need to meet current requirements without compromising those of the future. Technology through engineering has tried to offers solutions to current power requirements while meeting the needs of the future, however, most of these solutions are still at a development stage. Most ideas and developments loss focus at a development phase where business leaders prefer or opt to sustain their businesses rather than sustain the society and the planet as a whole (Law 2009). However, the trends in renewable energies provide a balance between these factors in a manner that sustains the environment.

Sustainability Factors

Renewable electricity (RE) is now readily available to the masses through wind and solar power. Moreover, the cost of RE generation is now reasonable to offer competition to existing power options such as those developed through fossils fuels (Chisholm 2003). These trends in the field are also set to rise because of favourable characteristics they pose and the support they have received from business stakeholders. However, the recent growths in natural gas supply and the collapse of oil prices threatens this trend. Moreover, fossil fuels seem to have a minimal impact on power generation which means that even when RE technologies are fully incorporated they will still be used in other sectors (NREL 2015). So, how do the currents trend in RE generation costs compare to those of fossil fuels and what practices are in place to address future sustainability challenges?

Technological advancement has led to cost reductions and improved performance of RE technologies. Today, photovoltaic cells and wind turbines are more efficient as compared to ten years ago. These advancements have drastically reduced the cost of power production and have expanded the market share of these technologies. Moreover, these trends have influenced innovative finance practices that offer investors high returns based on the existing energy policies. In addition to this, organisations are now structuring their plans to fit the sustainability requirements which has led to more RE producers who cater to a much bigger audience (Ren21 2016).

However, consider the progress that would have been seen by now if enforceable laws had been enacted in the past to deal with the implementation of renewable energies. According to NREL (2015), RE costs of production have fallen by 80 percent, this drastic reduction is only because of the improvements in the field. Moreover, due to the market expansion and the levelled cost of electricity, solar power has also seen a drop in costs of production of 50 percent. These values place RE technologies within the range of fossil fuel and power production which signifies the importance of ‘cost of production’ in sustainability requirements (Randall 2016). However, according to Liebreich, the foreseeable future is likely to be characterised by low-cost fuels and oil production. These views by a keynote speaker in the recent BNEF (Bloomberg New Energy Finance) summit threaten the trend seen in RE technologies. So, what can technology and the society do to meet the competition imposed by fossil fuels?

RE Cost Trends (Current and Future)

Sustainability goals should drive the agendas set in power production where all stakeholders involved should develop plans that compromise on cost and the success of renewable energies. Consider the case study of Amsterdam clean energy policies, Amsterdam has embarked on a mission to sustain its environment. Through its win-win procedure, it has developed procedures that will reduce greenhouse emissions thus propelling the city to a sustainable environment. Through the help of the business sector and the civil society, they have implemented procedures that favour the environment while meeting the energy needs of the city (Berger 2016). At the forefront of this master plan are renewable energies, where the wind and solar power are to be used to power the city. Furthermore, their plan envisions an integrated futuristic society that has both social and economic aims to meet the needs of the environment. Through their plan sustainability is and will be easily achieved, more so, when you consider their overall plan to have a clean and renewable economy.

Similarly, the world at large should adopt a similar policy where all decisions both civic and business are made to serve the RE requirements. Policies that reward those who invest in renewable energies should be implemented, these policies should be based on the financial sector where most people seem to focus. For instance, develop special tax clause that waivers the tax requirements for solar panels and wind turbines. In addition to this, incorporate all stakeholders just like Amsterdam did, where business representatives are consulted and so are the civic representatives. Furthermore, technology should embrace those who are disadvantaged by developing cheap RE options that meet the competition set by cheap inadequate energy sources. Again, these requirements need investment, the overall key to sustainability (Yonavjak, Norford & Ballesteros 2013).

According to the NREL case study, the developments seen in renewable electricity (wind and solar) are because of the benefits they offer particularly to sustainability which assures the survival of the planet. However, future developments depend on the energy plans made by decisions that analyse the short and long-term risks. Most of these risks are financial affecting economies, projects, and energy prices. Nevertheless, developing and maintaining these technologies is the critical component of meeting the sustainability requirements (Reeep 2007).

Technologies that facilitate renewable energy have different risks than those experienced by other regular energy sources, for instance, wind and solar power is available at different times of the day. However, unlike fossil fuels, they have a lower operation cost and are immune to fluctuations in fuel price. Moreover, most RE technologies have different risks that complement each other thus can bridge the gaps experienced by each individual technology. Now, regardless of these benefits the sector still lacks the necessary financial backing to meet the current environmental demands which affect its development trends.

Beating the Competition (RE Future Trends)

In the previous chapter, we highlight incentives that influence financial decision makers to promote RE technologies. However, does this outlook really help expand the industry? Subsidising policies (e.g. tax laws) does not necessary guarantee success, this because many organisations could invest in dubious projects to get the favours of these laws. As a future trend, these policies should go to depths of focusing on innovative market designs, operational costs and most importantly focus on the integration of RE technologies in the present financial systems. This outlook engages capitalism in promoting sustainability by meeting the financial needs of the world. A start to this trends could be solutions to the current energy crisis. Present statistics show finite reserves of fossils fuels more so those of oil, this creates an opportunity to acquire investments from oil proponents in order to maintain their future financial status (Reeep 2007). These investments could be made as an answer to an alternative capital source which coincidentally serves as an alternative to the energy problem, therefore, meeting the sustainability requirements.

Globally, RE technologies have had a steady growth since 2004 where power production in 2014 (both wind and solar) was estimated to be more than 400GW. Individually, wind power capacity has grown from 48 GW to 318 GW from 2004 to 2013, on the other hand, solar power capacity has grown from 2.6GW to 139GW within the same period (REN21 2014). This steady rise is attributed to the advances in the technology where improved techniques have been used. In wind power engineers have been able to develop systems in high towers, having bigger blades and most importantly having efficient transmission systems. Similarly, solar power has seen advancements in photovoltaic materials that generate and conserve energy more efficiently than previous material. However, it is the enhancements in intelligent communication systems that engineers have been able to generate more power/energy per the investment rate (Voorlichting-EWI 2016).

Sustainability can only be met if these technologies are fully integrated into the national grids and become the primary source of energy. Today, integrating these technologies into power systems forms the biggest challenges to grid workers and engineer who have to maintain a consistent power output. However, newer methods of forecasting supply, controlling RE transmission and generation are slowly helping meet these challenges. Moreover, research suggests that over 30 percent of all solar and wind electricity requirements are easily met by the existing system but, the other limit (70%) still depends on the market designs and other operational demands (NREL 2015). Again, this limit still depends on financial investment proving the importance of cost analysis in sustainability engagements (Hui 1997).

Financial Inefficiencies

At an individual level, it may fall to us all to influence the society in a manner that encourages a sustainable lifestyle. At a production level little can be done by individuals because energy production is system oriented rather than product oriented. Maybe, we could invest in the field by reducing our consumption of inefficient energy sources such as fossil fuels and also by participating in the development of RE technologies through donations among other minor roles. These simple activities may help the sustainability initiative which is a more complex than dealing with the energy production crisis (Connors 1998).

Renewable energies have a vital role in meeting the future demands of energy and achieving global sustainability. Recent trends show tremendous growth in the field especially in electricity production where solar and wind power has been used efficiently across the globe. Our focus case study highlights these trends more so the cost implications of the RE technologies and how financial factors affect sustainability. Financial aspects of RE production stand out as the major challenge for meeting the short and long-term objectives of sustainability.


Although investments have been made into the industry, experts in the field still lack adequate resources to meet the needs of today and tomorrow. Moreover, recent trends in fossil fuel prices threaten the achieved progress by creating barriers in the energy market. Therefore, rigorous techniques are needed to facilitate faster developments of renewable energies especially in the integration of RE technologies in the existing energy infrastructure. At the heart of this techniques should be economic opportunities which could entice business stakeholders to invest in these technologies. Moreover, the current energy crisis should also serve as a warning to future times when fossil sources will be depleted.

Investing in renewable energies should no longer be an option but a necessity for survival. New sources other than solar and wind should also be invested in to create more options for the current energy demands that must be met in a sustainable way. This approach will secure a safer environment for the future generations who technology may advance the existing technological systems.

References

Baiorunos. R, 2011, 5 factors of sustainability: this isn’t your grandmother’s sustainability framework, Community wealth partners, Available from: https://communitywealth.com/5-factors-of-sustainability/ [27 January 2017]

Berger. J. J, 2016, Sustainable Amsterdam: A ‘Win-Win’ Post-Fossil Fuel Strategy, Renewable energy world, Available from: https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2016/10/sustainable-amsterdam-a-win-win-post-fossil-fuel-strategy.html [27 January 2017]

Camila. S, Pless. J, Logan. J, Zhou. E & Arent. J, 2015, ‘Renewable Electricity: Insights for the Coming Decade’, Joint Institute for strategic energy analysis, Available from: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy15osti/63604.pdf [27 January 2017]

Chisholm. C. U, 2003, ‘Critical Factors Relating to the Future Sustainability of Engineering Education’, global journal of engineering education, 7(1), Available from: https://www.wiete.com.au/journals/GJEE/Publish/vol7no1/Chisholm.pdf [27 January 2017]

Connors. S. R, 1998, ‘Issues in energy and sustainable development’, Fourth International Programme on the Management of Sustainability, Available from: https://web.mit.edu/connorsr/www/docs/Connors_SustDevel_Jun98.pdf [27 January 2017]

Hui. S. C, 1997, ‘From Renewable Energy to Sustainability: The Challenge for Hong Kong’, In Proc.  Of the POLMET ‘97 Conference, Available from: https://web.hku.hk/~cmhui/polmet97.pdf [27 January 2017]

Law. K. M, 2009, ‘Factors Affecting Sustainability Development: High-Tech Manufacturing

Firms in Taiwan’, Asia Pacific Management Review, 15(4), Available from: https://apmr.management.ncku.edu.tw/comm/updown/DW1012213796.pdf [27 January 2017]

Randall. T, 2016, Wind and Solar Are Crushing Fossil Fuels, Bloomberg, Available from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-06/wind-and-solar-are-crushing-fossil-fuels [27 January 2017]

Reeep, 2007, How to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency options, support for South African local government, Available from: https://www.energycommunity.org/documents/SEA1.Success%20through%20sustainability%20.pdf [27 January 2017]

REN21, 2016, Renewables 2016 global status report, Available from: https://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/GSR_2016_Full_Report.pdf [27 January 2017]

Voorlichting – EWI, 2016, Master of Science Sustainable Energy Technology, Available from: https://set.msc.tudelft.nl/ [27 January 2017]

Yonavjak. L, Norford. E & Ballesteros. A, 2013, Implementation Strategies for Renewable Energy Services in Low-Income, Rural Areas, World resource institute, Available from: https://www.wri.org/publication/implementation-strategies-renewable-energy-services-low-income-rural-areas [27 January 2017]

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