Ecology Paper on Renewable Energy Prospects in Louisiana

Renewable Energy Prospects in Louisiana

Energy is the primary driver of various economic sectors in the U.S. and across the world. In the households, energy takes up a vital part of the household income as people use it for various purposes. The primary energy sources, such as petroleum, nuclear energy, natural gas, coal, and other renewable energy are commonly used as is electricity, which is the main secondary energy source produced from the primary energy sources. The economic sector is the major consumer of primary and secondary energy, with the transportation and industrial sectors leading with 29% and 22% of consumption respectively. Additionally, electricity is generated from about 39% of the total primary energy generated. Hence, secondary energy production takes the lead in energy consumption (EIA, 2017). In the recent years, the emphasis has been placed on the shift from the more common energy sources, such as electricity and natural gas towards the use of renewable ones.

To some extent, there has been progress in this shift as more families are now consuming renewable energy in addition to other sources of energy than what they did previously. The move has resulted in a reduced consumption of the non-renewable energy sources albeit not significantly. As much as pressure to shift from non-renewable to renewable energy sources is significant, various challenges that hinder the complete transition are still prevalent. One of the challenges cited in the U.S. is the scale and complexity of the energy generating systems. Essentially, the costs associated with a transition in each case are directly proportional to the complexity and size of systems to be replaced. With over 1000 GW of energy produced in the U.S. annually, a complete substitution of the non-renewable with renewable energy sources is extremely difficult. Indeed, considering the energy consumption trends in my town area, a shift towards renewable energy would affect energy consumption and related aspects, such as costs and the environment.

Energy Sources and their Impacts

My family energy consumption comprises of the energy used for cooking, heating, and lighting, which are secondary sources of energy. Besides electricity, other sources of energy that are common within my community include natural gas and solar power. The most commonly used sources are electricity and natural gas for lighting and cooking respectively. However, with the advent and emphasis on the use of renewable energy sources, a significant number of people in the neighborhood are resorting to using solar power. Indeed, solar power has no negative impacts on the environment as it is renewable. However, it is a challenge to access during winter when sunshine is limited. Unlike solar, the other energy sources have significant negative environmental impacts. The U.S.A. Department of Energy (2015) describes the various impacts of energy use on the environment. The impacts are categorized into the land, water, air, and Green House gas (GHG) emissions to the environment.

The generation of electricity as a secondary source of energy is linked to various outcomes including air pollution. According to the U.S.A. Department of Energy (2015), the production of electricity results in the emission of various pollutants, such as sulfur dioxides, volatile compounds, and nitrogen oxides into the environment. These substances are released during electricity production as a result of the combustion of fuels in the power plants. Some of these substances have direct impacts on human life while others affect people through a reaction to other compounds in the environment resulting in outcomes, such as acid rain and the ground-level ozone among others. Therefore, the strategies for reducing this kind of pollution lie in continuous research and development aimed at utilizing alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power and using electricity generation technologies that do not result in the pollutant emissions. While electricity is not generated within my community, the impacts of its generation can be widespread due to environmental interactions. Once in the environment, the generated compounds have no limits as to where their impacts would be felt. As long as the electricity consumption rates continue increasing, the impacts of the same on the environment are inevitable.

Gases, such as carbon IV oxide, methane, and water vapor are also commonly emitted during the production of electric power, leading to a high concentration of GHG emissions in the environment. While natural gas is considered to be a clean source of energy, its production results in environmental destruction because mining destroys land. The extraction of the oil also causes land pollution. At the same time, the depositions of coal ash and other solid mining outputs on land also renders it useless. These energy sources are not renewable and, therefore, once consumed, they take a lot of time to regenerate. The water also suffers as a result of energy extraction to a certain extent, for example, through mining and combustion activities, there can be waste heat discharge into water bodies which affect aquatic life. Toxic substances, such as acids and ash can be generated by air pollution deposits while acid runoffs originate from mining operations and contamination due to energy resource extraction processes. With increased levels of carbon IV oxide in the environment, the impacts of pollution on land are also increased. However, the trend is changing regarding land, air, and water pollution due to application of intensive research and development approaches in limiting pollution. Additionally, new technologies, such as the end- of-pipe combustion, which release fewer pollutants into the environment, are being pursued by the electricity generation sector. Similarly, coal and natural gas extractions are also changing technology aimed at lessening polluting practices. With these changes, the reduction of pollution driven by energy production is inevitable. Moreover, the rate of increase in electric energy consumption across the U.S and particularly in Louisiana is reducing significantly with the increasing use of renewable energy resources.

Energy Consumption Trends in Louisiana

Based on the recent bills for my family, based in Louisiana, the average energy consumption for the past three months was 957.1 kWh per month, which implies that for an average household with energy needs similar to ours in Louisiana, the energy consumption per year may be about 957.1 * 12 months = 11485.2 kW. According to Suburban Stats (2017), the total number of households in Louisiana as at the last census was about 1.16 million. These household’s energy consumptions could be approximately equal to my family. The average energy consumption per household per month in Louisiana as reported by Electricity Local (2017) is 1254 kWh per month. Therefore, typically, the total energy consumption in the State of Louisiana could be 1254 * 1,160,000 = 1454.64 GW per month and17455.68 GWh yearly. With this rate of consumption in the area in mind, substituting it with renewable energy would be quite a challenge. Indeed, the magnitude and costs of needs in energy consumption would be impediments. As at now, the renewable energy resources available in Louisiana include biomass and solar power. However, the total renewable energy consumption in the state is less than 4% of the total energy need of the community (EIA, 2017a).

According to the EIA (2017a), more than two-thirds of the renewable energy in the State of Louisiana is biomass, which comprises of energy sources such as wood and wood waste products, sugar cane wastes (bagasse), and other agricultural wastes. These can be used directly as sources of fuel and for electricity generation. Furthermore, the county has hydroelectric power, which is considered a viable renewable energy source as opposed to other power generation processes. At present, a few of the residents utilize solar energy in their residential places, but this would change once the strategies for managing power generation within the society are put in place. Currently, plans are underway to construct plants for the conversion of sugarcane bagasse and other biomass into pellets for use as power plant fuel in Louisiana (EIA, 2017a). Alternative sources of power are also continuously being developed to cater for the energy needs of the community. In addition to the actual action plans for the energy agency in Louisiana, a commission set to determine the applicability of a renewable energy portfolio standard decided that the state would not require RPS due to their huge energy demands, which are the highest in the United States. Nevertheless, the state has put in place other policies to foster the efficiency of renewable energy utilization within the community. Some of the policies that the local government in Louisiana has put in place include: a program on voluntary efficiency energy utilization for citizens, implementation of requisite energy standards in structural constructions and net metering. The state government has also put in place installations giving up to 25 kilowatts of biomass, solar PV as well as other renewable energy sources. Since the current total support for the distributed systems is only about 0.5% of utility capacity, the state is attempting to develop other strategies that would help to raise the support scope of the systems (EIA, 2017a).

Impacts of Renewable Energy on Louisiana

In spite of the challenges that characterize infrastructural development and utilization of renewable energy resources in the state, there is still hope that the shift towards renewable energy utilization would bring about greater benefits to the society than those offered by non-renewable ones. Biomass energy is particularly of great potential regarding energy generation since it can be utilized in various forms and is recommended for use in the State of Louisiana. For instance, biomass can be pyrolyzed, gasified, fermented, pro-digested, and even combusted to produce electricity and/or heat for domestic and industrial utilization. Additionally, it is a renewable source of energy, which makes it sustainable and eco-friendly. The entire debate about shifting energy utilization practices is founded on the need to have renewable energy become the major source of energy in households and the commercial sector. Moreover, organic materials, such as wood wastes, manure, and garbage are bound to regrow and/or to be released continuously by humans; hence, they are energy sources that are renewable. Solar energy is similarly renewable because it cannot be depleted as long as the sun exists.

The utilization of biomass as a source of renewable energy is described as a carbon-neutral process. One of the challenges earlier identified to be part of the electricity generation process is that of the release of GHG and other gases into the environment. Nonetheless, with biomass, the amount of gases, such as methane and carbon IV oxide, which are released into the environment during any of the mentioned energy generation processes, is equal to that absorbed by plants during its lifetime. Since biomass is part of the natural carbon cycle process, it follows that once the biomass has been combusted and the gases released into the environment, sprouting plants use the same amount of gases during their lifetime before being utilized for biomass production (EIA, 2017a). Just as the sun and wind energies, biomass is bountiful, and hence its use cannot be limited by challenges such as the ones currently experienced in the use of fossil fuels. However, this does not mean that careless use of such renewable energy resources would have no impacts on their availability. For instance, if the rate of the use of biomass energy is faster than that of the growth of new plants that replace it, then its availability is bound to reduce. These energy sources are also much cheaper in comparison to fossil fuels. The costs of fossil fuels entail those involved in extraction as well as the distribution and generation of electricity from such energy sources. The costs incurred in the utilization of the renewable energy sources are minimal as they do not include distribution and extraction costs.

The shift from non- renewable energy sources, such as natural gas, towards the renewable energy sources like biomass can be supported by the Louisiana community. As it is now, the consumption of energy in this society is high, implying that the cost of energy consumption in the area is also significant per household. When provided with a cheaper alternative, the society is bound to support its growth, especially in the contemporary times where the economy has tightened significantly. Also, the alternative of using biomass as a source of energy is realistic to a great extent. It is also a feasible investment if viewed from the perspective of costs and the corresponding benefits. However, the major challenge that may be faced in its utilization is the limitation of capacity, relative to what is currently gained from conventional energy sources. The environmental impacts of this new energy source would also be minimal because biomass is part of the natural carbon cycle.


The energy consumption in the state of Louisiana is the highest in the U.S and is far above the national average. With energy consumption characteristic, Louisiana, more than other states in the country, needs a renewable energy strategy that is affordable and capable of providing a sufficient amount of energy to the community. Currently, the community utilizes electricity, solar power, and natural gas, which have negative impacts on the environment with regard to land, water, and air pollution. However, the state has an abundance of biomass, which can be utilized as a source of renewable energy. Indeed, biomass is cheap and sustainable and if utilized rationally, can go a long way in promoting renewable energy use within the community.





EIA (2017). Americans use many types of energy. U.S Energy Information Administration. Retrieved from

EIA (2017a). Louisiana state profile and energy estimates. U.S Energy Information Administration. Retrieved from

Electricity Local (2017). Baton Rouge and Louisiana electricity rates. Retrieved from

Suburban Stats (2017). Population demographics for Louisiana 2017 and 2016. Retrieved from

U.S.A Department of Energy (2015). An assessment of energy technologies and research opportunities. Quadrennial Technological Review. Retrieved from