Renewable energy gets its power from resources that will never run out, like sunlight or wind. This is an alternative to burning fossil fuels, like coal and oil, of which there are limited supplies. Although fossil fuels are often used, renewable energy is a fast growing part of the modern world. “Over the past eight years, investments in renewable energy systems have exceeded U.S. $250 billion annually, reaching a record high of U.S. $366 billion in 2021” (Propenko, 2023).
One reason renewable energy is expanding so rapidly is that humans need access to a lot more energy than we did in the past. A hundred years ago, cars were only starting to become common. Now, there are millions of cars on the road. Another major reason is that our current way of generating energy involves emissions called “greenhouse gasses'', especially carbon dioxide. These gasses trap heat from the sun in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing climate change. Mr. O’Dowd-Ryan, an environmental science teacher at Walter Payton College Prep, states, “Climate change is a huge threat to the entire planet. It’s not a question of whether we need to switch from fossil fuels – not doing that is not an option.”
However, making that switch isn’t always easy. Clement Dunn, a Chicago teen, says “using renewable energy isn’t really an option that’s been offered to me.” Most areas only have one or two electricity companies, so individuals can’t really decide where their power is coming from. A way to get around this can be to generate your own electricity with solar panels (if you own your house). This can be expensive, so the federal and many state governments give tax credits to homeowners to help them do this. Local governments sometimes go beyond that and make the switch to renewable energy themselves. The City of Chicago signed a $422 million contract with Constellation Energy to further their commitment that all city-owned buildings will use 100% clean energy by 2025 (Hickman, 2022). Other governments that have made similar pledges include New York City and the state of California.
Although the cost and logistics involved in moving toward renewable energy can seem intimidating, today’s teens can expect to see it becoming more and more prominent throughout their lives!