With dwindling fossil fuel reserves, we need alternatives sources of energy before the reserves run completely dry
Continuing within the Energy Element challenge component, a core consideration is increasing the adoption of renewable energy in Malaysia.
The modern shift in energy
At the beginning of the 21st century, it is estimated that about 80 percent of the world’s energy supply was powered by fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are classified as a finite resource and cannot be replenished over a short period of time. Experts in the field have estimated that proven reserves of oil are large enough to meet global demand at least until the middle of the 21st century.
In contrast, renewable energy sources accounted for only about 20 percent of global energy consumption at the beginning of the 21st century, with biomass being the most used medium with traditional uses such as wood fires for heating and cooking.
By 2015 about 16 percent of the world’s total electricity was produced by large hydroelectric power plants, whereas other types of renewable energy (such as solar, wind, and geothermal) accounted for 6 percent of total electricity generation.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which naturally replenishes over time. The major types of renewable energy sources are the Sun (solar energy), wind (wind power), rivers (hydroelectric power), hot springs (geothermal energy), and biomass (biofuels).
Solar energy is the technology used to harness the sun’s energy and make it useable. The energy of the sun is limitless and can continued to be harvested so long as there is sunlight.
Without visibility of the sun, solar energy can’t produce any energy at all. It doesn’t work at night without a storage device such as a battery, and cloudy weather can make the technology unreliable during the day. Solar technologies are also currently relatively expensive and require a large land mass to collect enough of the sun’s energy at rates useful to lots of people.
2. Wind Power
Wind energy, or wind power, harnesses kinetic energy by using a wind turbine, a device that channels the power of the wind to generate electricity. Small, individual wind turbines can produce 100 kilowatts of power, enough to power a home.
Similar to Solar Power, there are inconsistencies in wind patterns. Harnessing large scale wind power requires heavy capital investments and a large land mass. On top of this, wind farms may have negative impacts to the local bird species.
Once a dam is completed with all equipment installed, the energy source from flowing water is free. This clean fuel source is renewed by snow and rainfall. Hydropower is highly adaptable by being able to produce large amounts of electricity whilst also being able to adjust for demand by controlling the flow of water through the turbines.
Big dam projects can disrupt river ecosystems and surrounding communities. These dams can also cause low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, which is harmful to river habitats.
4. Geothermal Power
Unlike solar and wind energy, geothermal energy is always available, 365 days a year. Being relatively inexpensive; savings from direct use can be as much as 80 percent over fossil fuels.
The major disadvantages are environment-related. The main concern is the release of hydrogen sulfide, a gas that smells like rotten eggs at low concentrations. Additionally, disposal of some geothermal fluids may contain low levels of toxic materials. Also, although geothermal sites are capable of providing heat for many decades, eventually specific locations may cool down.
As biofuel is typically extracted from plants, crops and other byproducts, there is an abundant supply of replenishable raw materials. Additionally, it produces less GHG emissions than traditional fossil fuels.
Producing biofuel can be quite expensive. Additionally, biofuels, which are mostly hydrogen and carbon, produces carbon dioxide when burned, which contributes to global warming. It is true that biofuels produce less GHG emissions than fossil fuels, but that can only serve to slow global warming and not stop it or reverse it.
Are there options for individual users?
Yes, there small-scale renewable energy options for home-users as well. Self-consumption, known as SELCO applies when electricity is being generated for own usage and any excess is not allowed to be exported to the grid. Under the direction of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA), the agency is encouraging individual, commercial and industrial consumers to install solar photovoltaic panels for their own consumption, looking to hedge against the rising cost of electricity.
Another initiative that end-users can partake in is the recycling of cooking oils. There are companies that have collection points for used cooking oil that they will use and convert into biofuel.
 Fossil Fuels in the 21st Century by Stephen F. Lincoln
 Noelle Eckley Selin, Associate Professor of Engineering Systems and Atmospheric Chemistry, Engineering Systems Division and Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology