Assess the Potential of Three Sources of Renewable Energy as Alternatives to Using Fossil Fuels in the Developing World

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After experiencing the replacement of manual and animal labour by steam engines in the Industrial Revolution, cheap fossil fuels then became the main source of energy. However, faced with the notable increase demand for energy, fossil fuel, as a non-renewable resource becomes scarcer and more expensive nowadays. To solve this problem, the world needs to replace fossil fuels with other sources of energy which are relatively low-cost and more secure. Renewable energy is such a potential energy. This essay will give an outline of three sources of renewable energy to be used in developing nations, which are solar energy, wind power and biomass. First, it will give a definition of fossil fuel and renewable energy, then it will move to analyse these three sources, evaluating them in three criteria: technology, cost and reliability to see whether they have great potential helping the developing world moving upwards in the future development. Firstly, it is important to make clear the definition of fossil fuels and renewable energy. Fossil fuels can be defined as solid, liquid, or gaseous fuels formed in the ground after millions of years by chemical and physical changes in plants and animal residues under high temperature and pressure. According to Franchi (2005: 72), “renewable energy is energy obtained from sources at a rate that is less than or equal to the rate at which the source is replenished”. Compared with conventional energy, renewable energy has an impressive long-term potential. Undoubtedly there are environmental concerns with the usage of non-renewable energy. Massive combustion of fossil fuels leads to serious air pollution and global warming, thus posing major health risks coupled with the quick and wide migration of diseases. However, renewable energy offers clean sources that seem much friendlier to the environment. Furthermore, it is widely agreed that renewable energy is more likely sustainable to meet demand in future development other than fossil fuels. Another advantage for developing nations using renewable energy is to help local economic develop, since investments are taking place and facilities are built and maintained, bringing employment a boost. Regions that still require fossil fuel to provide electricity and heating may spend a great deal of money on imported fuels. Therefore, renewable energy shows a big potentiality in future energy supply. To start with, as Volker (2005) mentioned, solar energy is an inexhaustible supply of energy. Yet there is far less an agreement about this. Franchi (2005) claims that energy from the Sun is terminate since the Sun is measured to remain its life for millions of years. Human now consider solar energy as a renewable energy because it should persist being available for many generations of people. Though it is generally accepted that solar power might have a great potential in the future energy supply, it is important to bear in mind that for some developing countries, this may call for high technology and expenditure which they cannot afford. Great efforts have been made to reduce the cost of solar thermal plants (Middleton, 2003; Seitz, 2002), however, solar cells are still relatively expensive, thus result in the limitation of wider use, especially in the developing world (Seitz, 2002). Solar energy has already shown its promise with a massive resource and few adverse environmental impacts (Aringhoff et al, 2005; Middleton, 2003; Seitz, 2002). Though objections might occur when the amount of sunlight arriving at the earth is not constant and there is not enough energy delivered by the sun at any one place at any one time, making the energy collection at a useful rate a rather difficult process, according to the Energy Information Administration (2006). The use of solar energy also has great dependence on location, time, and weather condition. Nevertheless, its potential to be used in developing countries is still promising since it is reported that the...
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