What is Green Energy?

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22nd April 2021

What is Green Energy?

Klair Neenan

Klair Neenan

Last week we celebrated Earth Day, an annual event which is marked on the 22 April and aims to demonstrate support for environmental protection. One of the easiest ways we can all help the environment is to power our homes with green energy. Let’s make it Earth Day, every day.

Now, we’ve all heard of “Green Energy”. We’ve all got a vague idea of what it is, I’m sure. But what is it exactly?

Green energy is electricity that is generated from natural renewable resources such as wind, sun or water. We call it “green” because its production is much kinder on the environment and it naturally replenishes itself, unlike the energy we get from fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which can take millions of years to replenish and produce significant quantities of harmful CO2 during energy production. 

The main benefits of green energy are:

  • It’s far better for the environment than traditional fossil fuels.
  • It helps contribute to cleaner and improved air quality by reducing pollution from fossil fuels.
  • It gives us a much broader range of energy sources which helps secure our economy.
  • It provides thousands of sustainable jobs.
  • Unlike fossil fuels, green energy is plentiful and will never run out.

Ireland has a bounty of renewable resources at our disposal and a long history of using them. Our rivers have been used for hydropower since the 1880s. Our wind has been harnessed by mills since medieval times, all the way to today with wind farms like SSE’s Galway Wind Park harnessing the wind to power our towns, villages and cities. There is considerable research going into the viability of Ireland developing biogas from renewable feedstock, including grass, which would be a great bound forward into a greener future. And, despite what we may think about never getting sun in Ireland, we have great conditions for solar too

But there is still so much more we can do as a country, which is something SSE Airtricity is committed to achieving. We’ve been on a mission since day one to help bring greener energy to homes and businesses across the island. Since entering the Irish energy market in 2008, SSE has invested significantly to grow its business here, making a total contribution of €3.8 billion to Ireland’s economy over the past five years.

In recent years, green energy has become the major solution in the global fight against climate change. As Governments and industries across the world work to reduce their carbon footprint and reach the climate goals they’ve set, they are turning to greener energy sources to help them. In many cases they are legislating for climate action, enshrining carbon reduction targets and green energy use in law.  In November, in what promises to be a significant moment for global climate action, Glasgow will host COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference. This gathering of global leaders will once again focus minds on what more needs to be done. SSE is proud to be a principle partner to COP 26 and to play its part along side global leaders in helping the world achieve net zero by 2050. 

With COP26 on the horizon and a noticeable shift towards a greener future, governments have a responsibility to ensure we achieve this goal, as do the industries operating across the country on a large scale, but there are also great strides that society can make towards a greener more sustainable future. We know that for most of us, the scale of addressing climate change can feel too big and like our individual choices and actions won’t matter, but it is our small daily decisions as individuals that will make all the difference.

If we as individuals and collectives make greener choices, use greener energy and contribute positively to our environment, we can build a better, cleaner, greener world for all. If just one home switched to green electricity, they alone would contribute a carbon-saving equivalent to the power of 625 trees!1 Imagine a whole town doing it. Then imagine the rest of the country. The effect on our environment and the future of our families would be incredible. For a low effort, each of us can change the environment for the better, making a healthier, more sustainable world for those to follow. 

We have the resources, and we definitely have the drive. Our efforts, like the fuels, need to be renewable.

1 According to research by UCC (Jan 2020), at their MaREI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, Environmental Research Institute, the average home in Ireland responsible for emitting 11 tonnes of CO2 emissions (including electricity, heating, car, aviation etc.). As per the Forestry and Climate Change report by the Forestry Commission each tree is locking up roughly 0.546 kg of carbon per year – equivalent to 2 kg of CO2. So, if one tree locks up 2 kg of CO2 per year, you'd need 5,500 trees to absorb 11 tonnes of CO2. The UK government’s report on the carbon emissions for homes on the average energy fuel mix (July 2020) notes that electricity on average accounts 15% of a typical home’s carbon footprint. A switch to Green energy, therefore, could reduce CO2 emitted by 1.25 tonnes of CO2 per year for the average home. This would equate to 625 trees.

Klair Neenan

Managing Director