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Alternative Energy Sources and Possible Utilization

Research Methodology

This chapter describes the methodology used in the research process to investigate the possible utilisation of alternative energy sources in contrast to the existing traditional sources, with the focus on their impact on business and economics. To obtain the information on the use of alternative energy sources in addition to traditional sources as well as on the associated challenges, risks, and future perspectives, it is necessary to conduct a critical review of the existing literature on the problem and compare the role of traditional and renewable energy sources for business and economic development. This chapter discusses strengths of the critical literature review as the qualitative research method, types of sources used for the literature review and further comparison of factors, features of descriptive and analytical research frameworks, and limitations of the study.

Critical Review of Literature as a Research Method

The review of the existing literature in the field of the research is one of typical tools used within the qualitative research methodology (Bryman 2012; Creswell 2013). The critical literature review method is effective to analyse and appraise the previous research on the investigated issue to determine the perspectives from which the topic is discussed in the academic literature or to point to the possible gap in the existing literature. The value of the critical review and appraisal of literature is in a possibility to overview a range of sources and to conclude regarding tendencies in the discussed field with references to the existing studies (Ritchie et al. 2013). A researcher becomes able not only to overview the current trends in the area of the research but also to evaluate and compare these tendencies according to the research purpose.

Focusing on the advantages of the literature review for summarising and comparing current trends in the concrete research field, this dissertation develops a theoretical framework for analysing how alternative energy sources are used today and can be utilised in the future to influence business and economics globally. The integration of the information presented in the reviewed literature in the conceptual framework also allows comparing advantages and risks of using traditional and alternative sources of energy for the global economy and with references to business opportunities. Critical literature review with elements of the comparative analysis is chosen as a method for the research instead of meta-analysis because there is no need to apply statistical tools for analysing data connected with existing and possible future alternative energy sources (Conboy, Fitzgerald & Mathiassen 2012).

Sources for Reviewing

Sources of data for reviewing in the qualitative research are divided into primary and secondary ones. According to the statements by Vibhute and Aynalem (2011), and Saunders, Thornhill and Lewis (2003, p. 32), primary sources usually include the unique information, data received from observations, surveys, interviews, ethnographic research, and the actual and in-depth information. Such published papers as governmental reports related to policies, treaties, and laws are also regarded as primary sources or documents. In this context, reports of statistical surveys published by local and world organisations can also be discussed as primary sources. Primary sources are important to provide first-hand information on the topic and the actual evidence to support conclusions (Thomas & Magilvy 2011). Secondary resources differ from primary ones in terms of presenting the researcher’s interpretation of the previously available information on the topic (Doz 2011; Williams 2011). Thus, secondary sources include articles published in journals and online as well as books. Secondary sources are accessible, cost-efficient, and allow making conclusions referring to multiple investigators’ perspectives.

The choice of resources for the current study depends on the research purpose; therefore, both primary and secondary resources on the topic of using alternative sources of energy were selected for the study. This dissertation utilises the primary data from such published sources as environmental, economic, and organisational reports and documents related to the energy laws in order to receive the complex and factual information on previous and current changes in the use of energy sources and their proportion to predict the further changes. Such primary resources as reports of the US Department of Energy and the US Energy Information Administration, reports of the European Wind Energy Association and International Energy Agency, official documents of the Renewable Energy Centre, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the World Wide Fund for Nature are important sources of the factual and statistical information. The data regarding changes in the use of energy in the world and nationally with the focus on the role of changes in the global economy are critical to conclude on the potential use of alternative sources of energy in the future.

The purpose of reviewing secondary sources including online journal articles, web-based articles, and books is to present the theoretical framework that can reflect the changes in attitudes to using alternative energy resources in the scholarly literature. From this point, the review of secondary resources is necessary to analyse the current position of alternative sources in the energetic framework, their significance as renewable sources, the contribution of multinational companies to business, and the role of governments in promoting the use of different energy sources. Review of secondary data is also important to determine factors that are relevant to compare benefits of using traditional and renewable energy sources for business and economy. Ideas of such authors, for example as Morgan (2009) and Kruger (2006) represented in their books on renewable energy will also be used to analyse current tendencies in relation to volatility of resources price, the use of power throughout history, and opinions on a suitable replacement energy source and the exponential expansion of energy consumption.

Descriptive and Analytical Research Frameworks

Saunders et al. (2003, p. 35) state that a descriptive research approach is used to explain the features of a target group or phenomenon being studied for which the question on how, when, and why the features occurred is not considered. The reason is that the descriptive approach focuses on the question of “what” features are typical for the phenomenon. The descriptive research framework is followed to explain the use of alternative energy sources as a phenomenon with the focus on the factual data from the reports and organisational documents.

The analytical approach is employed in this research as continuation of the descriptive research in order to analyse and illustrate the phenomenon related to the question of how to assess the causal relations between the issues and relevant facts (Vibhute & Aynalem 2011). The analytical approach is directly correlated with the critical review of sources, and it allows appraising the studied secondary literature. As a result, for the purpose of the research, the analytical framework is used for analysing researchers’ perspectives and estimating the position of alternative energy sources in contrast to existing sources and for predicting possible future resources.

Limitations of the Study

The main limitations of the study are in the necessity to decrease the scope of the research for the dissertation and rather limiting inclusion criteria to address directly the purpose of the study. These limitations are discussed with references to choosing the most relevant sources. This approach is important to explain the beneficial and weak characteristics of renewable energy and their effect on business and economy.

Data Collection and Analysis

This chapter discusses the data collection procedure and the process of reviewing the sources as well as the data analysis stage critical for concluding on results of the research. The purpose of this stage in the research process is to search for and collect the most appropriate and accessible primary and secondary sources for the further review and comparative analysis. The main focus is on evaluating and comparing primary and secondary sources on the use of traditional and alternative renewable sources of energy globally with their further impact on the economy. The data collection section discusses the phases of collecting primary and secondary data for the review and analysis. The data analysis section discusses the elements of evaluating the received data. The results of the critical review and appraisal, as well as the comparison, will be presented in the form of tables reflecting the theoretical framework for the research.

Data Collection

The data collection stage was based on the computerised search. Thus, the collection of data for the further review and critical analysis was divided into six phases. The first phase was the search for the primary literature like reports, laws, and statistics related to the use of renewable energy sources and its role in business and economy. The researcher focused on searching documents published online by the US Department of Energy, the US Energy Information Administration, the European Wind Energy Association, the International Energy Agency, the Renewable Energy Centre, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the World Wide Fund for Nature. The applicable state legislation on energy sources and Congressional Research Service reports were searched additionally. The search was directed by using such keywords as ‘renewable energy’, ‘bio-power’, ‘alternative energy’, ‘energy statistics’ and their synonyms among others.

The second phase included the preliminary review of reports and documents on their relation to such topics and factors as the correlation between the use of traditional and alternative energy sources and capital expenditure profit margins; the proportion of using traditional and renewable energy sources in the past and currently; data on finiteness of fuel and other traditional energy resources; the statistical predictions regarding the further use of alternative energy sources; the benefits and risks of using renewable sources; and the relationship between the use of alternative energy and growth of businesses globally. The other important factor was that reports and documents needed to be published recently, to reflect the modern tendencies in the energy field and its relation to the economic and business sector. According to these criteria, 14 governmental and organisational reports and documents published online were selected to be reviewed and analysed for the current research.

The third phase of the data collection stage is the search for secondary sources. In order to support the primary data review with the other valid data, articles and researches published in peer-reviewed journals and written by well-known authors with the high-level credibility were searched. The reason is that the review of the literature can be discussed as reliable only when high-quality researches and studies are referred to. Journal articles were searched for while using online libraries and databases preferred by academicians, including Wiley Online Library, Science Direct, ProQuest, EBSCO, Researchgate, and Elsevier. The keywords used for the search were the same as for the primary data collection step: ‘renewable energy’, ‘bio-power’, ‘alternative energy’, ‘energy statistics’ and their synonyms.

However, the number of available journal articles and researches was large, and it was important to limit the search while focusing on the articles directly discussing the emergence and use of alternative energy sources; benefits and risks of renewable sources; providing the assessment of alternative sources in comparison with traditional energy sources; threats of using fuels in contrast to alternative energy sources; and the role of using renewable energy for providing more business and economic opportunities in the future. The search for the most appropriate available articles was typical for the fourth phase of the data collection stage. The search results were also reduced with the focus on selecting articles published not earlier than the year of 2000. At this stage, two books written by Kruger (2006) and Morgan (2009) were chosen additionally to provide the complex information on the problem of energy sources in the world.

The fifth phase of this stage was based on reviewing abstracts of the selected articles to become sure that the article discusses different perspectives of analysing the use of alternative energy and its role in business and economic progress in the world. Referring to the decreased scope of the research and limiting inclusion criteria, it is possible to state that only ten articles were selected for the further review and analysis. During the final sixth phase of the data collection process, all primary and secondary sources were read thoroughly, and the provided data were analysed and compared with the focus on the purpose of the current research to investigate what alternative renewable energy sources exist and how they can influence the business and economic development in the future. The following figure represents stages of the data collection process with the focus on gathering the primary and secondary data:

Data Collection Process
Figure 16: Data Collection Process

Data Analysis Phases

Descriptive and analytical approaches are applied to the research at the stage of data analysis because reviewed primary materials and secondary studies differ in their types, content, and the date of publication. As a result, a meta-analysis based on the use of statistical assessment tools is not selected for the research, and the focus is on the critical appraisal and comparison of sources according to their description or features and determined factors. From this point, the process of data analysis is also divided into three phases to address the specifics of working with different types of sources. Primary sources as reports and documents were analysed separately from secondary sources like online and journal articles.

During the first phase of the data analysis, reports and documents were examined in terms of topic areas or subjects and used primary sources of data, including interviews and surveys among others. The purpose of this phase was to describe the main tendencies in using alternative sources of energy in contrast to traditional energy resources for the further comparison of their benefits and disadvantages and impact on business.

In the second phase of the data analysis, the researcher determined factors essential for describing and evaluating alternative energy resources and their potential for the future with references to the research questions and objectives. The following factors were identified: (1) the environmental value; (2) the social value; (3) economic value; (4) threats from traditional energy sources; (5) finiteness of existing sources; (6) challenges and risks associated with renewable energy; (7) investment opportunities; (8) alternative energy market; and (9) the impact on business.

During the third phase, the articles were reviewed with the focus on determining factors significant for the sophisticated analysis of the current situation in the global energy market and for making conclusions regarding the use of existing and future alternative energy resources and their impact on business. Additionally, the descriptive commentary was provided for each source in order to determine perspectives and researchers’ opinions on using renewable energy nationally and globally.

Results of Data Analysis

The review of primary sources such as governmental and organisational reports and legal documents indicates that 12 reports based on statistical and survey data refers to economic and business advantages of using alternative or renewable sources in general in comparison to two reports discussing aspects of wind energy and bio-energy. The integrated results of the primary literature review are organised in Table 3.

Table 3. Critical Literature Review of Primary Sources

Authors Topic Area Data Source Commentary
1 Department of Energy 2001 Renewable Energy Advantages and Possible Challenges Primary data This report includes factual data related to the renewable energy use and future challenges for the development of alternative energy globally. Alternative geothermal energy can address many commercial and industrial purposes. Bio-fuels can be actively used in the transportation sector reducing costs. The use of biomass instead of coal decreases carbon emission and associated hazards. Wind turbines are the efficient technology to reduce costs and increase power. Solar thermal technologies are environmentally friendly.
2 Stern 2007 Energy Demand and Environmental Threats Statistical Data The report presents the data on the economics of climate change, on the energy demand for different regions, on emissions in developed and developing countries, on environmental threats and on possibilities of renewable energy to address the issue of energy efficiency and usage of low-carbon energy sources.
3 Fridley 2010 Renewable Energy Advantages Statistical Data The report provides the data regarding risks of greenhouse gas emissions and advantages of using renewable energy resources.
4 The Climate System Analysis Group 2011 Alternative Energy Significance Survey The report points at the active consumption of finite resources in world regions and on the risks of the climate change and global warming. The survey results demonstrate the necessity of using more alternative energy in contrast to finite coal and oil. The data also indicate how fuel prices influence economic development globally.
5 European Wind Energy Association 2011 Alternative Wind Energy Statistics and Laws The directives and documents represent how the use of wind energy will potentially change with the focus on providing more business and economic opportunities.
6 WWF 2011 Renewable Energy Surveys This report includes many suggestions for the OECD countries and for the rest of the world to face any future challenge with the dwelling supply of fuels and possible future resources and their impact on business. Survey results demonstrate steps to take to address the problem of depending on the finite energy resources.
7 Carmak & Ergun 2012 Renewable Energy Legal Regulations Regulations and Laws The project of the unified regulation to address the issue of using the renewable energy resources is based on the comparison of laws in 36 countries in the world.
8 International Energy Agency 2012 World Energy Statistics Statistics The report provides statistics related to the world energy supplies typical for the period of 1971-2010. The focus is on the distribution of fuel, oil, and natural gas in regions as well as on coal production. Statistics on energy consumption by region and harmful emissions is also provided.
9 The United Nations Environment Programme 2012 Environmental Policy Statistics The report focuses on aspects of the environmental policy and regulation to contribute to developing the green economy and new commercial opportunities in the world.
10 Bracmort 2013 Bio-Mass And Bio-Fuel as Alternative Sources of Energy Surveys The report states that bio-mass and bio-fuel can be discussed as efficient sources of renewable energy that can be actively used to address the energy demand in developing and developed countries.
11 REC 2013 Renewable Energy and Bio-energy Surveys The report demonstrates how bio-energy generated from biomass can be potentially used in the world because of many different sources of biomass that come from the land and can address the needs of the population in energy.
12 The US Energy Information Administration 2013 Alternative Energy Statistical Data The report provides the statistical data on the use of alternative sources like solar energy in different regions of the world and on the impact of such strategies on the economic development of these countries.
13 Union of Concerned Scientists 2013 Renewable Energy and Future Prospects Survey Results The report states that ecosystems can survive with the focus on decreasing the use of fossil fuels. Reduction of carbon gas emulsion is significant, and there is an opportunity to prevent global warming.
14 Worldwatch Institute 2013 Economy of Renewable Energy Statistical Data The report indicates that it is possible to expect rises in energy prices associated with the use of finite resources if the proportion of alternative energy resources does not change.

The review of secondary sources (journal articles) indicates that the environmental value is referred to as a factor in two articles; the social value – in three articles; the economic value – in six articles; threats of traditional energy sources – in four articles; finiteness of existing sources – in two articles; challenges and risks associated with renewable energy – in two articles; investment opportunities – three articles; alternative energy market – in two articles; and the impact on business – in seven articles. The results are presented in Table 4.

Table 4. Critical Literature Review of Secondary Sources

Authors Study Factor Commentary
1 Herzog, Lipman & Kammen 2001 Renewable Energy Sources Social Value; Economic Value; Impact on Business This paper provides useful information on the development of alternative energy to meet the global energy demand. Thus, the researchers identified that renewable energy has the potential for the future, and it will help to change an economic position of developing countries.
2 Krautkraemer 2003 Economics of Natural Resource Scarcity: The State of the Debate Finiteness of Existing Sources; Economic Value The article states that the economic growth can be limited by the finite character of natural energy resources. The growing resource consumption requires focusing on the sustainable solution as the alternative energy resources.
3 Douglass 2005 Identifying the Opportunities in Alternative Energy Investment Opportunities; Alternative Energy Market;
Impact on Business
The researcher notes that investors are interested in funding the alternative energy market. Solar and wind power sources can be actively used by new small privately owned companies to contribute to their progress.
4 Rosentrater & Al-Kalaani 2006 Renewable Energy Alternatives – a Growing Opportunity for Engineering & Technology Education Alternative Energy Market; Impact on Business; Threats of Traditional Energy Sources Renewable will play the key role in the energy market in the future to reduce carbon emissions and increase its use to promote operations and develop businesses.
5 Blackman & Baumol 2008 Natural Resources Challenges and Risks Associated with Renewable Energy; Threats of Traditional Energy Sources; Economic Value;
Social Value; Environmental Value
The researchers state that use of alternative resources is environmentally friendly, and the health risks are decreased, but the investment is necessary to adopt new renewable technologies. This situation is associated with significant financial risks.
6 Lior 2008 Energy Resources and Use: The Present Situation and Possible Paths to the Future Environmental Value; Social Value; Economic Value; Investment Opportunities The researcher states that the use of nuclear power and fuel will decrease to generate energy, and the focus will be on ecologically renewable energy that now can satisfy only 2% of the total demand.
7 Perez & Perez 2009 Fundamental Look at Energy Reserves for the Planet Finiteness of Existing Sources; Threats of Traditional Energy Sources The article states that traditional sources are environmentally hazardous, and can lead to global warming. Cost-cutting and green measures include the use of alternative sources that can address the possible future energy crisis.
8 Oren, Callaway, Mathieu & Papavasiliou 2010 Renewable Energy Integration and the Impact of Carbon Regulation on the Electric Grid Challenges and Risks Associated with Renewable Energy; Economic Value; Impact on Business The article states that the renewable energy production depends on the economic status of the country and its climate patterns. Thus, it can influence business environment in this country.
9 Peltier 2010 The Employment Impacts of Economy-Wide Investments in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Economic Value; Impact on Business; Investment Opportunities The researcher indicates the positive role of using renewable energy in both developing and developed countries.
10 Craft 2013 Peak Oil and Our Future: How Energy Depletion Will Change Our Lives Impact on Business; Economic Value; Threats of Traditional Energy Sources The energy crisis is expected if the consumption of energy is not reduced. Fossil fuel resources should be changed with alternative resources to decrease costs and contribute to the business and economic development.