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What is renewable energy?

Solar cells (photovoltaic cells) on a roofRenewable energy comes from natural resources that are constantly replenished. These resources include rivers, oceans, wind, sunlight, geothermal heat (heat from inside the Earth) and biomass (material from living things such as plants). Unlike fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—renewable energy resources cannot be used up. They are always available. Renewable energies are used for generating electricity, heating buildings and water, cooking and powering vehicles.

A coal-fired power station

Why use renewable energy?

Using fossil fuels in vehicles and power stations adds billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. To avoid catastrophic climate change, alternatives to fossil fuels need to be found—and fast. Burning fossil fuels also creates air pollution. Many people are also concerned by the radioactive waste created by nuclear power.

Biofuels currently supply about 5% of the world’s transport fuel. It is estimated that biofuels will supply more than a quarter by 2050.

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