Challenging The Conventional: Can Renewable Energy Replace Coal?


Climate change is a hot issue, with the earth’s temperature rising and bringing sea levels with it. This has led to people becoming more conscious of their decisions and how they impact the planet. Among the results is the push towards renewable energy, but can renewable energy really replace coal? 

Our System Is Based On Coal 

The main problem with a switch to renewable energy is that the entire system we currently use is based on coal. People are used to getting their fuel from coal and the system for delivering energy is based on that fact. Additionally, there are entire communities where coal is the livelihood, providing most of the jobs. 

Coal Is Affordable 

The other factor keeping coal in the lead in terms of energy production is its cost. Compared to other methods of producing energy, it is affordable. Some alternatives would cost more money in terms of raw materials or security needed, such as in the case of nuclear. Others, like renewable wind or solar energy, would have the costs associated with creating new infrastructure to replace the current coal infrastructure. 

Reducing The Impact Of Coal 

Because of the complications associated with replacing coal with renewable energy, some people feel that the best option is to focus on coal quality control. There are tools that ensure coal is consistently high quality. This can do things like controlling coal blends so all batches are on-spec. There are also coal quality control tools that help improve the safety of workers and equipment. 

They Must Be Combined With Other Methods 

For wind, solar, and other renewable energy resources to replace coal, they must not be used alone. These renewable methods are dependent on environmental conditions and have restrictions. Solar power, for example, can only be produced during the day, not 24/7 like coal. 

This means that before renewable energy can completely replace coal, we must figure out a method of ensuring that there is energy at all times of the day. This can be an improved system of storing energy produced. Or, more likely, it means combining various methods of energy production, such as using renewables in conjunction with nuclear or coal. 

They Can Replace It, But Not Yet 

Many energy scientists and other experts in the field feel that while it is possible for renewables to more or less replace coal, they are not ready to do so quite yet. Some suggest moving away from coal due to its production of emissions. They suggest using natural gas as a bridge until renewables are ready to take over. Of course, the infrastructure for natural gas is also not in place, so using it as a bridge would involve investing money to create that infrastructure. 

Even so, renewables are making steady progress. There is evidence that they can be cheaper in the long-run. Additionally, the advances in energy storage technology are starting to make it seem feasible to use solely renewable energy at some point in the future. Furthermore, the cost associated with the technology for renewables keeps going down. 


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