Renewable Energy Explained
There is a variety of sources in the UK producing the energy that comes into our homes. Most of it is produced by burning fossil fuels which are major contributing factors to the current climate crisis. Cleaner alternatives to traditional power sources are being increasingly sought after in order to reduce our dependence on traditional fossil fuels. Renewable energy refers to different forms of energy naturally obtained from existing flows of energy in the environment. These sources are continually replenished contrary to fossil fuel or nuclear energies which are finite and will eventually run out. As the energy sector is transforming, see how you can help make an impact at home towards a cleaner energy future.
Non-renewable energies are limited resources
Renewable energy sources are sustainable, infinite, and are a clean alternative to the non-renewable energies which are limited. The main reason to anticipate the transition to renewable energies as soon as possible is that non-renewable or “dirty” energy sources such as oil, gas, and coal are finite. The amount we use now is simply not sustainable. As the global population expands, the rising demand across the world for these non-renewable energies increases and they are consumed faster than they can be replaced whilst seriously impacting climate change. Diversifying our energy supply will allow us to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and decrease our carbon footprint.
What is a renewable energy source?
Renewable energy is sustainable energy from sources that are naturally replenishing and cannot run out. The most popular renewable energy sources are solar, wind, and water power. These are simply naturally present in the environment and can be converted to useful power thanks to modern technologies.
Types of renewable energy
The most popular renewable energy sources currently are:
Solar energy – Solar energy technologies transform energy from sunlight directly to electricity.
Wind energy – The wind energy is converted into electricity by using wind turbines which feed an electric generator and produce electricity.
Hydroelectric power – Hydro-power relies on water flows. The force they induce powers a turbine which converts it into electricity.
Biomass energy – Biomass is derived from organic material that comes from plant matter, agricultural and urban waste and trees. It is utilised to generate energy by combustion.
Tidal energy – Tidal energy is a form of hydroelectric power relying on tidal currents to produce electricity. It is a form of hydroelectric power where the water movement generates energy.
Geothermal energy – This refers to heat energy stored below the earth surface.
Advantages of renewable energy
The increasing competitiveness of renewables makes them highly attractive. Here are good reasons to make the shift to renewable energy in the future:
- Climate impact – Renewable energy sources do not cause harmful greenhouse gas emissions
- Job creation – The sector provides many different types of jobs which are expected to continue to grow well into the future
- Economical – It allows you to generate your own electricity
- Additional source of income – The extra electricity produced can be sold to your energy provider
- Stable energy prices – Once installed they are inexpensive to operate and low maintenance, often making up for their investment over time.
- Energy independence – Less reliance on imported non-renewable energy for a stronger economy
- Environmental benefits – Renewables do not produce dangerous waste that requires complex and costly management
Renewable energy costs have fallen over the past decade and a recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published in June 2020 found that renewable power has become cheaper than any new power generation developments based on fossil fuels.
Renewable energy at home
There are several ways you can do your part for the planet and switching to green energy is amongst one of the easiest and most impactful shifts you can do to reduce your and/or your business carbon footprint.
Switch to renewable energy
If you are ready to switch to a green energy plan, you will have a range of suppliers to choose from as it is becoming a popular option amongst households in the UK. The choice is growing and green energy tariffs on the market can vary so it is always a good idea to shop around to compare what is available and ensure the company is reputable. Your supplier should also let you know what proportion of your supply is renewable. Some tariffs will be ‘100% renewable’ while others will only offer a percentage of the total fuel mix.
Energy generators are granted “green” certificates called Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) by the industry regulator OFGEM (Office of Gas and Electricity Markets). A certificate is delivered for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable electricity generated. When a supplier buys power from a renewable generator to sell to its customers, it also buys its REGO certificates. This allows OFGEM to assess how much of the power suppliers buy comes from renewables. The purpose of the certificate is to guarantee customers that a proportion of the electricity they purchased was produced from renewable sources.
In the UK all the energy sourced is pooled into the National Grid (whether it is renewable or not). If you have a green energy supplier, they will replenish the energy you use from the national grid from clean renewable sources. This means that swapping to a 100% renewable energy supplier alone will not make your house zero emissions as it isn’t possible to directly re-route the green energy to your door. However, signing up for renewable energy means you are putting clean, renewable-generated power into the National Grid to match the amount of energy you use at home. The energy will then be distributed to homes and businesses.
Your devices might not be directly powered by green energy, but you are making an impact in switching to renewables by encouraging suppliers to source renewable power in order to meet the demand. The growing demand will lead to an increase in the supply of clean energy and guarantee that renewable-sourced energy is put back in the grid.
Generating your own renewable energy
If you are interested in generating your own power it is important to take a long-term view. Installing a renewable system can be more expensive upfront, but you will be able to significantly cut your monthly energy bills and recoup on your investment. To get the most out of your renewable energy system it is a good idea to ensure beforehand that your property is energy efficient. To determine the efficiency of your house, an energy audit can be done to check areas for improvement. Then you will need to consider what’s possible for your home as some systems won’t be technically compatible with your property. Depending on the kind of property and installation, you may need to get planning permission from your local authority.
10 Tips to be saving energy at home
The advantages of using renewable energy in a domestic setting are enticing alone, but you will only make the most of it provided that you are mindful of how you use your household energy.
- Turn off the lights when leaving a room
- Replace your light bulbs with LED lights
- Unplug your devices when you are not using them
- Install a programmable or smart thermostat
- Set your thermostat at a lower temperature
- Reduce your water heating expenses
- Install double glazing windows
- Insulate your property
- Use a smart meter to track your energy usage
- Equip your house with energy-efficient appliances
- Renewable energy made up 47% of the UK’s electricity generation in the first quarter of the year – improving the previous record of 37% set in 2019.
- Just 1 wind turbine can generate enough electricity to power 1,400 homes or make 230 million cups of tea
- In 2016, the renewable energy sector employed about 9.8 million people and the solar power industry alone generated twice more workplaces than the coal or oil industry combined.
- The world energy consumption is predicted to grow by 50% by 2050.
- By 2050, the sun could be the world’s main energy source of energy.
- On Wednesday 26th August 2020 wind power was generating 60% of Britain’s electricity. The record was set at in the early hours of the day as the UK was experiencing high winds from storm Francis.
- In 2018, Costa Rica operated on renewables for 311 consecutive days. So far, it is the only country in the world that has been able to achieve this.
- According to the WWF, the whole world has the capacity to go climate neutral by 2050