There are three main clean energy sources: solar, wind, and hydroelectric. Each of these energy sources displaces energy produced by fossil fuels, reducing carbon emissions. The type of energy displaced depends on the mix of generation on the grid.
While all three clean energy sources have their pros and cons, all of them are safer than fossil fuels. Renewable energy is a key part of the climate change solution.
While all three energy sources have short-term effects on human health, it is the fossil fuels that are responsible for the largest number of premature deaths. Burning coal emits 1.4 to 3.6 pounds of CO2E per kWh, compared to 0.1 to 0.5 pounds for solar and hydroelectric.
Nuclear energy is considered an emissions-free source. But, it also has a high death rate. Its death rate is a bit more than half that of hydropower.
Another clean energy option is biomass. Plant and animal matter has been used as an energy source for millennia. This includes waste from agriculture. It can be used to produce steam for electricity generation or heat for water and space heating.
Despite the fact that biomass can have a wide range of global warming emissions, its energy production is still cleaner than fossil fuels. Wood and other materials can be recycled into energy, and can be used to produce heat for industrial purposes.
Those who choose to build renewable energy systems must take into account the costs of doing so. The cost of renewables is often determined by the market-determined price of CO2 emissions. Depending on the technology, carbon charges may apply to the electricity generated.