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Renewable Energy in Sustainable Urban Development

RenewableEnergy in Sustainable Urban Development

Currently,it is estimated that half of the world’s population live in cities.Notably, this is expected to increase to 84% by 2050 which isequivalent to 6.3 billion people (Dixon 2). On the other hand, it isestimated that although the current megacities holding highpopulations will have the numbers increase, they will only constitute10% of the urban population by 2025. This, therefore, implies thatvast growth will be experienced in the current small cities whichwill account for 45% of this population. This rapid growth, however,carries with it both benefits and costs (Dixon 2). Benefitsattributes will include enhanced economies of scale, advancedtechnology improving the quality of life and advantages emanatingfrom new and improved infrastructure. Costs, on the other hand, willinclude deteriorating ecosystems, depletion of resources and climatechange. The latter, climate change, has been identified as the corereason behind the dynamics in rainfall patterns and more droughtbeing experienced in the current world. One important cost aspectemanating from population increase is the escalating energy demand.It is estimated that the global energy demand will double by the year2050. At the same time, it is alleged that the current non-renewableenergy sources will be depleted (Sathaye et al. 12). These majorlyinclude fossil fuels, natural gas and oil. The water level is alsoexpected to decrease since more people will mean occupying space nearthe water sources. Equally, these non-renewable energy sources havebeen noted to contribute 80% of the greenhouse gases. In this regard,it is imperative that the world embarks on energy-related researchand development which introduces other sources of energy and exploitsthem. These include the renewable sources of energy which have beenidentified as cleaner and sustainable.

UnderstandingSustainable Urban Development

Populationgrowth and urbanisation are inevitable. This implies that theecological footprint continues to spread and an increase in theenvironmental impact. This impact must, however, be acknowledged. Todefine sustainable urban development, the phrase entails developmentthat aids in achieving the present concerns and milestones withoutaffecting the future (Dixon 1). Two key pillars that are consideredin sustainable urban development include social and economic. In alldefinitions of sustainable urban development, primary themes revolvearound altering growth quality, minimising depletion of the currentenergy resources and especially the non-renewable, integratingeconomic decisions with those on the environment and considering thefuture generations need (Sood 2). A core driver of urban expansion ispopulation growth which is increasing through reduced mortality rateand high migration. As noted earlier, despite the positive aspects ofurban development such as an increase in technology andinfrastructure, there are also negative impacts which affect theissue of sustainability (Nilsson et al. 9). These impacts includeloss of agricultural land, destruction of habitats, decline in theecosystem services, reduction in the recreational areas and overdependency on private cars which increases emissions of greenhousegases, noise and air pollution.

UrbanDevelopment and Energy Issues

Asnoted earlier, one of the major areas characterising sustainableurban development is the energy sector. Currently, the world isdepending on the non-renewable sources of energy which include hydroand fossil fuels. A crucial factor to note is that the world has nowembarked on using coal and other fossil fuels as sources of energy, amove that is considered damaging to the environment (Nilsson et al.12). There are four major issues that affect the sustainability ofthese non-renewable energy sources challenging their usage and thusconsidering other sources. These challenges include socio-economicdevelopment, accessibility, energy security and averting the effectsthat these sources have on both the environment and populationhealth. By 2050, it is estimated that the energy demand will double.An ironic factor about this fact is that 85% of the current globalenergy is from non-renewable sources which are said to get depletedin few decades to come (Dixon 10). The issues emanating from currentnon-renewable energy sources including fossil fuels, coal, oil andgas are considered as weak sustainable pedigree in energy. Theseenergy sources produce harmful gases which in turn destroy the ozonelayer resulting in climate change and global warming. At the sametime, the presence of these emissions has a health effect such aslung cancer and respiratory system challenges.

Consideringthe issue of security, these energy sources are set to get depletedin two decades time (Sathaye 11). This dictates the need to considerother sources that are sustainable and efficient. As the energydemand increases so is the cost which brings us to the issue ofsocio-economic factors of affordability and accessibility. In thisregard, there is urgent need to consider other energy sources and inthis case, the renewable sources which avert these four issuesamicably. However, there are several challenges regarding this movewhich include the amount of energy produced and the economic aspectespecially in the developing countries. Additionally, there are alsoenvironmental concerns as discussed later in this paper. Consideringthe issue of the amount of energy, the non-renewable sources producemore energy per given time as compared to the renewable.Environmentally, the non-renewable sources such as wind take a lot ofspace, a challenging aspect in the ecosystem. Economically, renewableenergy sources are an expensive venture, especially to the developingcountries.

SustainableUrban Development and Renewable Energy Sources

Thereare several goals that characterise the interaction betweensustainable development and renewable energy sources. One of the keyconcerns of sustainability is putting into consideration the aspectof environment and society. At the same time, the economic aspect isinfluenced in various ways. To begin with, renewable energy sourcesare described as clean thus the reason why they are central inmitigating greenhouse gases emissions. The conventional energysources and especially fossils have been noted to contribute to theincrease in greenhouse gases such as oxides of nitrogen and carbon.According to Sathaye et al. (8), the pre-industrial global average oftemperature increase is 2 degrees Celsius that is acceptable althoughthere is still an impact on this rise. Another core aspect to note isthat renewable sources of energy are based on technology which isconcurrent with sustainable urban development. Considering a decadeago, the renewable sources of energy realm was not effectivelyventured. It is noted that the current renewable sources of energycontribute to less than 20% of the global energy, an aspect thatshould be changed. While relating the sustainable development goalsand the renewable sources of energy, there are four main sustainabledevelopment indicators which include socio-economic development, easyto access, security and mitigation of climate change.

Consideringthe socio-economic indicators, the energy sector has been noted asone of the areas that characterise economic development. Sathaye etal. (11) note that there is a correlation between economic growth andenergy consumption expansion. Examples of socio-economic aspectsindicators include GDP which has for long been used as the proxy foreconomic development. While relating this with the human developmentindex (HDI), it has been noted to correlate profoundly with the percapita energy. The HDI is used to evaluate the development of acountry such as the life literacy, purchasing power income andexpectancy. The HDI is, therefore, an effective basis for measuringthe society wellbeing. Another indicator of technological developmentis the reduction in energy intensity which refers to the energyamount required to produce one unit of GDP. In this case, the unit isdescribed as a dollar. Other indicators that characterise thesocio-economic efficiency of renewable energy are the numerousbenefits which include employment opportunities. Notably, urbansocial development is faced with an increase in population which isnot directly related to increase in the number of jobs. However,renewable energy sources provide employment across various realms,from management to technicians which is sufficient in describingsustainable urban development. In the developing countries, developedstates have pledged funds which will support renewable energyprojects. This implies that there is more foreign income whichincreases the financial stability of the country. Essential to noteis that renewable energy sources are cheaper than the non-renewablesources. This, in turn, reduces the cost of living and manufacturingwhich further grows the economy.

Onekey attribute of sustainability is accessibility. There is a linkbetween millennium development goals and providing adequate energyservices by a country. To achieve any of the eight MDGs, it isexpected that energy should be available to the poorest members ofthe society. Recently, there has been an increase in exploitation ofthe non-renewable energy sources, larger production of thehydroelectric power and nuclear energy. Despite these efforts, it isestimated that 20% of the world population and particularly in therural areas lacked access to energy (Sathaye et al. 12). In thisregard, there should be an increase in the energy accessibilitythrough embarking on more sources. Energy security as a sustainableindicator refers to reducing the disruptions to energy supply. Energydisruptions have been noted to have an adverse impact on the societyfunctionality and economic aspect of the community. Considering thelong term effect, there are concerns over the potential of fossilfuels and reduction in the fossil reserves quality. This manifests ona reason why the transition to sustainable renewable energy sourcesimperative. Although the issue of depleting non-renewable sources iscontentious, there is a concern about the limitation, availabilityand distribution of these resources. One major effect of theconventional energy sources is the effect on human health (Sathaye etal. 13). With the increase in population, this means that more peopleare susceptible to health effects attributed to the greenhouse gasesemissions. Use of renewable energy sources means a reduction in thiseffect thus building a healthy society. Energy has been noted as thefoundation for key developments inclusive of agriculture andhealthcare. This implies that taking the approach of more energy fromthe renewable sources, sustainability will be attained in thehealthcare sector.

Typesof Renewable Sources of Energy

Renewableenergy sources are described as those who are not in danger ofgetting depleted in the near future. Crucial to note is that thesesources are natural. An example of these sources includes solar,wind, tides and waves. Similarly to the non-renewable sources ofenergy, there is a conversion aspect that transforms the power fromthe sun, wind or waves. As a result, this power is made usable. Twoof the most used sources are the sun and wind. While the sun is usedto heat the solar panels, with photovoltaic cells to convert thesolar energy to electricity, wind power is used to rotate theturbines which in turn produce electricity (Brown 34). Evaluatingsome of the challenges characterising these sources include requiringa high investment and by virtue that the plants cover a large area,this implies that the environment is destroyed to some extent.However, these plants are mostly located in plains where the land ispoor as an agricultural source such as the arid and semi-arid areas.This, therefore, implies an added advantage since areas that areconsidered useless are put into proper use. In sustainable renewableenergy sources and in particular solar, one of the key aspects isflexibility. This implies that one can easily install the powersource without fear of disruptions. In consideration also are thehybrid systems which are technologically advanced to accommodatevarious innovations in a single setup.

Renewableenergy sources are reputed for efficiency and cleanliness althoughthe quantity is limited when compared to non-renewable energysources. There is a myriad of applications of these energy sourceswhich should be considered in sustainable growth development. Theseinclude lighting, communication, cooking, heating and cooling, waterpumping and process motive power (Brown 21). For sustainable urbandevelopment to be achieved there is a need for more emphasis ininstalling these sources in almost all operations. This, therefore,means a holistic approach by the government and private investors toconsider more investment in this field (Werder 3). There is also anaspect of research and development where scientists are relentlesslyresearching for ways in which the renewable energy sources can beintegrated into the daily operations. Further, since the world cannotdo away with the non-renewable sources, there is need to revise andput more emphasis on laws and policies that govern emissions of thegreenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


Sustainableurban development is characterised by several factors among themtechnology advancement and improvement in infrastructure. Thisreflects on a more simplified life. However, there are challengesaffiliated with urbanization. These challenges are mainly centred onpopulation growth through reproduction and migration. Sustainabilityhas been described as achieving current milestones while avoidingimpacting the future negatively. Among the various issues andconcerns affiliated with sustainable urban development is the issueof energy. While population is estimated to increase in the comingyears, the energy demand is also anticipated to double. This isattributed to urbanisation whose foundation is technology and energy.A key aspect to note about the current and conventional non-renewableenergy sources is that there is uncertainty about theirsustainability since it is alleged that they will soon get depleted.Additionally, with sustainability being described by ensuringconservation of the environment, there are concerns on thecorrelation between non-renewable sources of energy and emission ofgreenhouse gases which are the main contributors to climate changeand global warming. In this regard, renewable sources are thereforeadvocated which are characterised by cleanliness, efficiency,accessibility and security. Examples include solar, wind and tides.Sufficing the future energy demand in sustainable urbanisation meansthat the world must focus on these energy sources while consideringmore research and development in this field.


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