Sustainable energy is using energy that can meet the demands of the present day without denying the future generation their energy needs. Sustainable energy can also be regarded as renewable. Natural resources such as plant matter, solar power, wind power, wave and tidal power can also be classed as sustainable energy. It also includes technologies that can improve energy efficiency, such as nuclear power. However this is controversial because of concerns regarding a natural disaster and/or accidents such as Chernobyl or that it could be targeted by terrorist groups.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy are said to be the “twin pillars” of sustainable energy. Sustainable energy has often been described as:-
- “Effectively, the provision of energy such that it meets the needs of the future without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. …Sustainable Energy has two key components: renewable energy and energy efficiency.” – Renewable Energy and Efficiency Partnership (British)
- “Dynamic harmony between equitable availability of energy-intensive goods and services to all people and the preservation of the earth for future generations.” And, “the solution will lie in finding sustainable energy sources and more efficient means of converting and utilizing energy.” – Sustainable energy by J. W. Tester, et al, from MIT Press.
- “Any energy generation, efficiency & conservation source where: Resources are available to enable massive scaling to become a significant portion of energy generation, long term, preferably 100 years..” – Invest, a green technology non-profit organisation.
- “Energy which is replenishable within a human lifetime and causes no long-term damage to the environment.” – Jamaica Sustainable Development Network
The main difference between sustainable energy, renewable energy, alternative energy and green energy is that sustainable energy focuses on the ability of the energy source to continue to provide energy. The downside of sustainable energy is that it can produce air pollution, but as long as it is not in the atmosphere for an indefinite amount of time and is within acceptable levels. Sustainable energy is also different from low carbon energy in that it is sustainable but only because it does not release CO2 into the atmosphere.
Green energy can be extracted or generated without any significant negative impact on the environment. The Earth has a natural ability to recover from this, as long it does not go beyond acceptable levels. Green energy is part of renewable energy and represents renewable energy resources that provide the highest benefits to the environment. Customers often buy green power for avoided environmental impacts and its greenhouse gas reduction benefits.