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Renewable energy – environmental impacts

Myth

The use of renewable energy sources has negative impacts on nature and the environment.

Facts

It is feasible to generate the entire energy supply on the basis of renewable energy – even when taking stringent environmental criteria into account. Acceptance of increased renewable energy capacities is still very high in Austria (79 per cent).

Life-cycle analysis for different energy sources in electricity production

Renewable vs fossil energy

In an in-depth meta-analysis IPCC (2011) calculated the life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions for different energy sources in power generation.

The graph shows the middle range.

Source: IPCC 2011 

Renewable energy projects often have a controversial image in public opinion, and local conflicts sometimes result. Nevertheless all polls show high acceptance (79 per cent in 2014) for renewable energy in Austria. Environmental compliance and early participation based on information access and transparency allow creation of an environmentally friendly energy system. Unlike fossil energy, solar energy, wind energy and hydro power have no emissions, waste or waste water during operation. Use of new technologies in biomass combustion systems can also limit emissions. Modern automated biomass combustion systems emit only a fraction of the particles of uncontrolled natural draught systems. The energy payback period of renewable energy technologies is in most cases only a few months (two years at the most). The mean values of the life-cycle assessments show much higher greenhouse-gas intensity of all fossil fuels compared to renewable energies (mid range).