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The Importance of Affordable and Clean Energy for Public Health

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10 min read

solar-panels

According to the United Nations, nearly 80% of global energy and 66% of electrical generation are supplied from fossil fuels. This contributes to approximately 60% of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

Access to energy is crucial for human and economic development, but lack of access to energy supplies and infrastructure can be a barrier. There are many different types of energy sources, including renewable sources like solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, biofuels, and natural gas. Non-renewable options include coal, petroleum, and uranium.

Energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy can help mitigate climate change and reduce the risk of natural disasters. Protecting and preserving ecosystems can ensure the continued use and development of hydropower and bioenergy sources.

The Link Between Energy and Public Health

Energy production and use have a significant impact on public health. On the positive side, access to reliable and affordable energy is essential for providing basic needs such as lighting, heating, and transportation, which can improve the overall quality of life.

However, energy production and use can also negatively impact public health. Energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil, which is the primary source of energy for many countries, releases harmful pollutants into the air that can cause respiratory problems and heart disease. These pollutants can also contribute to climate change, which can lead to a range of negative health outcomes, such as heat stroke, extreme weather events, and the spread of infectious diseases.

Additionally, fossil fuel extraction and transportation can negatively impact local communities, including water contamination and increased risk of accidents.

On the other hand, clean energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power do not release harmful pollutants and have a much lower impact on the environment. Investing in clean energy can help reduce air pollution and improve public health.

Investing in clean energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power can help reduce air pollution and improve public health. It can also help to reduce the negative impacts of energy production and use on the environment, which is crucial for achieving sustainable development.

The transition to clean energy is also essential for achieving several of the sustainable development goals, such as Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), and Goal 13 (Climate Action). By investing in clean energy, we can work towards a more sustainable and healthy future for all.

The Health Benefits of Clean Energy Sources

wind-farm

Clean energy sources, such as wind, hydroelectric, and solar power, can play a critical role in improving human health by reducing air pollution and mitigating the negative impacts of energy production and use on the environment.

Worldwide, 2.4 billion people cook using open fires or inefficient stoves fuelled by kerosene, biomass, and coal, which generates harmful household air pollution.  The use of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, is the main source of energy for many countries. But it also releases harmful pollutants into the air that can cause respiratory problems and heart disease.

There is a particularly critical need for action in sub-Saharan Africa, where population growth has outpaced access to clean cooking, and 923 million people lacked access in 2020.

In addition to outdoor air pollution, burning fossil fuels contributes to indoor air pollution, which can have serious health consequences. Indoor air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths in 2020, including over 237 000 deaths of children under the age of 5. Furthermore, the combined effects of ambient air pollution and household air pollution are associated with 6.7 million premature deaths annually.

Alternatively, renewable energy sources do not release harmful pollutants and have a much lower impact on the environment. The increasing use of renewable electricity generation can help reduce air pollution and improve public health. As a result, the renewable energy sector has seen significant growth in recent years, and many governments have implemented environmental policies to encourage the transition to clean energy. The positive impact of these policies on public health has been well documented, and the use of renewable energy has a critical role to play in achieving sustainable energy.

Case Studies of the Positive Public Health Effects of Clean Energy

There are numerous examples of how transitioning to clean energy has had positive impacts on public health. Here are a few case studies:

Denmark

Denmark has seen significant benefits to public health as a result of its transition to clean energy sources, particularly wind power.

In 2021, Denmark inaugurated the largest wind farm in Scandinavia, "Kriegers Flak," which has the capacity to generate enough electricity to meet the needs of approximately 600,000 Danish households. The wind farm is expected to increase Denmark's annual electricity production from wind turbines by 16%.

Currently, 50% of Denmark's electricity is supplied by wind and solar power. In addition to wind energy, solar panels are used to heat buildings and produce district heating, while solar cells are used to generate electricity. These efforts have led to impressive results in terms of energy efficiency in households, industry, and energy production. The transition to clean energy has helped to reduce air pollution and improve public health in Denmark.

China

According to the new "five-year plan" for the renewable sector released by the state planning agency in China, the country aims to increase the proportion of renewable energy sources in its grid to approximately 33% by 2025, up from 28.8% in 2020. This goal is part of China's efforts to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and increase the use of clean energy sources to improve air quality and combat climate change. The plan includes a range of measures to support the development of the renewable energy sector, including policies and financial incentives.

China emits 27% of global carbon dioxide and a third of the world's greenhouse gases. In addition to increasing the proportion of renewable energy sources in its grid to approximately 33% by 2025, China has also pledged to raise its total wind and solar capacity to 1,200 gigawatts by 2030. To achieve this goal, China plans to build large-scale renewable energy bases in the northwestern desert regions of the country. This ambitious plan is part of China's efforts to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and increase the use of clean energy sources to improve air quality and combat climate change. The country's strong government policies, large market demand, technological advancements, and growing investment in the renewable energy sector all contribute to its potential to exceed its renewable energy generation target by 2025.

United States

Electric vehicles (EVs) produce zero tailpipe emissions, meaning they do not emit harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter into the air when they are driven. This can help to reduce air pollution. EVs can also help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. By using clean, electric power to fuel our transportation needs, we can help to reduce our carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment.

The U.S. federal EV tax credit allows up to $7,500 for the purchase of a new plug-in electric vehicle, with the amount of the credit based on the vehicle's battery capacity. Starting in January 2023, used EVs priced up to $25,000 will be eligible for up to a $4,000 tax credit. These credits are intended to help make electric vehicles more affordable and encourage the adoption of clean transportation options. In addition to the federal EV tax credit, local governments in some states also offer their own incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, such as rebates or reduced vehicle registration fees.

India

In India, the use of fuel wood is the highest in the world, which exposes over 900 million people to indoor air pollution on a daily basis. It is estimated that this results in 360,000 premature deaths each year. Women and children are typically responsible for cooking and collecting firewood. Thus, they bear the greatest health burden from the use of polluting fuels and technologies in homes.

To address this issue, Climate Impact Partners is distributing more efficient biomass cookstoves to households. The efficient cookstoves facilitate an 80% reduction in smoke within the household, significantly reducing exposure to harmful indoor air pollution. These stoves not only reduce health risks and fuel costs but also increase employment through their manufacturing, sales, and distribution, leading to economic growth. Subsidies are also available to assist households that cannot afford the upfront costs of these stoves.

To see more countries leading the sustainability game, check out the greenest countries in the world.

The Economic Benefits of Clean Energy

Investing in clean energy can bring numerous economic benefits, including the creation of new jobs, reduced dependence on fossil fuels, and cost savings from reduced healthcare expenses and health impacts.

Clean energy alleviates poverty

Access to clean energy can help to improve people's quality of life, particularly in developing countries where energy poverty is a major issue. In developing and middle-income countries, energy access and fuel poverty are often major issues, particularly in rural areas. These areas may be located far from the main electricity grid, making it difficult and expensive to provide them with reliable energy. Clean energy technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines can help to address these issues. This can help to improve living conditions, education opportunities, and economic development in these communities.

The goal of universal access is to provide all people with access to modern energy services, including electricity, clean cooking solutions, and modern fuels. This can be achieved through a combination of policy, financing, and infrastructure development efforts.

Clean energy creates jobs

The adoption of clean energy can create jobs in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of clean energy technologies, which can help to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty.

Investing in a clean energy future can also contribute to economic growth by supporting the development of new technologies and industries. The transition to clean energy can stimulate innovation and create new job opportunities in the energy sector.

The transition to renewable energy is expected to bring significant job growth in the energy sector. According to the International Energy Agency, every dollar invested in renewables creates three times more jobs than in fossil fuels. While the shift towards net-zero emissions may result in the loss of around 5 million jobs in fossil fuel production by 2030, it is estimated that it will also create around 14 million new jobs in clean energy, leading to a net increase of approximately 9 million jobs.

Renewable resources lower energy costs

wind-turbines-supporting-residences

The Energy Information Administration estimates that by 2023, the cost of producing power by onshore wind and solar, will be considerably cheaper than the price of natural gas.

Renewable energy sources, such as solar energy and wind power, can often provide a more stable and predictable price compared to fossil fuels, which are subject to price fluctuations. In addition, the use of clean energy can improve energy security by reducing reliance on imported fuels.

Clean Energy Drives Global Health

In addition to the economic benefits, investing in clean energy can also help address the climate crisis and promote environmental justice. The use of clean fuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, which can have significant health benefits.

Investing in energy efficiency measures, such as improved insulation and energy-efficient appliances, can also help reduce energy costs and improve public health. These measures can be particularly beneficial for health systems and facilities, which often have significant energy needs.

Energy consumption is an essential factor to consider in operating hospitals and other healthcare facilities. These facilities often have high energy needs due to specialized equipment and the need to maintain a comfortable and safe environment for patients and staff. By investing in energy efficiency measures to power hospitals and other healthcare facilities can reduce their energy consumption and costs while also transitioning to a more sustainable energy system.

Fortunately, many tools and resources are available to help hospitals and other healthcare facilities reduce their energy use and transition to clean energy. For example, the Health Care Without Harm program offers a range of resources and tools, including guidance on energy efficiency and clean energy procurement, to help healthcare facilities reduce their environmental impact. There are also many organizations and initiatives focused on promoting the use of clean energy in the healthcare sector, such as the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network, which provides resources and support for hospitals looking to adopt sustainable practices.

Conclusion

In conclusion, affordable and clean energy is critical for public health. The use of dirty, fossil fuels for energy production can have negative impacts on air quality and water resources, leading to a range of health issues such as respiratory problems and waterborne diseases.

On the other hand, clean energy sources can help improve air quality and protect water resources. The demand for energy is also likely to increase as the world's population grows, making it even more important to transition to clean and sustainable sources. In addition, the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and poor housing quality, can disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities and exacerbate health inequities.

It is essential that all stakeholders, including governments, businesses, and individuals, work together to promote the transition to clean energy and ensure that it is accessible to all.

Let Us Do The Heavy Lifting

Are you a business that wants to be a part of the solution to climate change? Are you ready to join the clean energy revolution and make a positive impact on public health? Whether you're a big corporation or a small business, GGI has the resources and expertise to help you get started on your clean energy journey. Together, we can make a difference and create a healthier, more sustainable future for all. So don't hesitate, take the first step and contact GGI now!