Protecting Wildlife through Renewable Energy' work

Logo: REA

By Frank Gordon, Director of Policy at The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA)

Green landscape and lake
(Alain Audet)

In an era where environmental concerns are at the forefront of global discourse, the intersection between renewable energy and wildlife protection emerges as a beacon of hope. It is important to note that the growth of renewable energy sources not only promises a transition towards cleaner power, but it also presents a chance to protect biodiversity and mitigate the adverse effects of fossil fuel extraction and open-cast mining.

The soaring demand for energy has historically been met through the exploitation of fossil fuels, leading to detrimental consequences for the environment. However, the increasing adoption of renewables offers a sustainable alternative that not only addresses the energy needs of society but also serves as a powerful tool for wildlife conservation.

One of the most significant advantages of renewables lies in their capacity to reduce the environmental impact associated with traditional energy sources. Fossil fuel extraction and open-cast mining have long been synonymous with habitat destruction, disrupting ecosystems and endangering numerous species. By transitioning to renewable energy, we can curtail these destructive practices, providing a lifeline to wildlife struggling against the encroachment of human activities.

Solar energy, for example, harnesses power from the sun without the need for extensive land use or habitat disruption. Wind power, derived from the kinetic energy of the wind, minimises the ecological footprint associated with traditional power plants. Embracing these clean energy alternatives translates into less habitat destruction, enabling flora and fauna to thrive in their natural environments.

2023 showed a promising year for reducing fossil fuel use in the UK, as they reached a record-low 33% share of electricity generated - with coal down to 1% of the total. In 2022, coal demand in the UK was at its lowest since 1757. All of this means less pressure for creating new coal mines, less harmful air and water pollution, and less need to import destructive fossil fuels from abroad.

Close up of solar panels in a grass field
(Public Domain Pictures)

Furthermore, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels means diminishing air pollution, a crucial factor in wildlife health and ecosystem balance. The combustion of fossil fuels releases pollutants and harmful matter into the atmosphere, negatively impacting air quality. This pollution not only harms human health but also poses a significant threat to wildlife, especially those residing in or near industrialised areas.

By transitioning to renewables, we can significantly decrease air pollution, creating healthier habitats for various species. Cleaner air contributes to the overall well-being of wildlife by reducing respiratory issues and minimising the risk of contamination of food sources. Therefore, protecting air quality is a fundamental step in ensuring the long-term survival and thriving of ecosystems and the biodiversity they support.

Similarly, we have seen huge marine habitat and wildlife destruction from oil leaks and associated disasters, so the sooner we end oil extraction, the better for the planet’s ecosystems – renewables provide the only viable alternatives.

Moreover, the shift towards renewables brings about the democratisation of energy production. Traditional energy sources are often centralised and controlled by a handful of entities, limiting access and participation. In contrast, renewable energy technologies can be implemented on a distributed scale, allowing individuals and communities to actively participate in energy production. This empowers local communities to take charge of their energy needs, reducing dependency on large corporations and fostering a sense of environmental stewardship. Communities and farmers can harness renewable resources available in their vicinity, promoting self-sufficiency and resilience. This decentralised approach not only ensures a more equitable distribution of resources but also encourages responsible and sustainable energy practices.

Additionally, the decentralisation of energy production has the potential to strengthen the resilience of local ecosystems. With communities generating power from local renewable sources, there is less need for extensive power transmission networks, reducing the impact on ecosystems and minimising the risks associated with large-scale energy infrastructure.

The growth of renewables offers not only environmental benefits but also economic opportunities. As the renewable energy sector expands, it allows for the creation of jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance and research. Consequently, this economic growth fosters a symbiotic relationship between environmental sustainability and human prosperity, contributing to the wellbeing of communities.

Wind turbines amongst wheat fields
(Ed White Images)

The trajectory towards renewable energy represents a pivotal moment in our efforts to protect wildlife with benefits to improve air quality and democratise energy production. By embracing clean and sustainable alternatives, we can mitigate the destructive impact of fossil fuel extraction such as oil spill disasters and open-cast mining, creating a more harmonious coexistence between human development and the natural world. All renewable projects in the UK must adhere to the highest sustainability standards. The transition to renewables can not only safeguard biodiversity but also paves the way for a future where communities actively participate in shaping a sustainable and resilient energy landscape.

About the REA:
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (known as the REA) is the UK’s largest trade association for renewable energy and clean technologies with around 500 members operating across heat, transport, power and the circular economy. The REA is a not-for-profit organisation representing fourteen sectors, ranging from composting, biogas and renewable fuels to solar and electric vehicle charging. Membership ranges from major multinationals to sole traders. 

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Posted On: 16/01/2024

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