The winds of change are starting to blow throughout the UK, especially when it comes to renewable energy. With news regarding climate change targets and rising gas prices dominating the media, politicians and public at the moment, it’s no wonder that green renewable energy is a hot topic.
We all know the long-term benefits of renewable energy: we will no longer rely on importing expensive fossil fuels from foreign countries that will eventually run out and we will no longer pump toxic gases into our atmosphere, but the UK is already starting to reap the benefits of its work towards a greener future.
Here are 5 things that show the UK is indeed one of the leading players when it comes to developing a sustainable energy network.
1. A jobs boom
According to statistics from the Renewable Energy Association, the renewable energy industry across the UK as a whole saw a 9% increase in employment between 2012/13 and 2013/14, bringing the total number of people working in the industry up to 112,026. Amongst the best performing areas were the North West, the East Midlands, London and Scotland, and the sector which saw the largest employment increase was biomass heating, with a rise of 19% across the country during the same period.
The UK’s economic recovery has been slow and unpredictable, but this boost to jobs in the renewable energy sector heralds a brighter future for the country in more ways than one. The more people working in renewable energy, the faster this essential technology develops. Ultimately, the greener the UK’s energy supply becomes, the better. It is a positive cycle that can hopefully continue.
The EU Renewable Energy Directive has set targets for the UK, along with all other members of the EU, which legally requires 15% of the country’s energy to come from renewable green sources by 2020. In addition to that, the EU also requires that by the year 2050, just 35 years from now, the UK must have achieved an 80% reduction in the production of greenhouse gas emissions (set against base levels from the 1990s).
2. Turn those turbines
Some may view the target of 15% set by the European Union to be daunting, maybe even unobtainable, and that isn’t surprising, given that information about where our energy comes from can be difficult to locate. But the UK is actually on course to smash the 15% target in the next 5 years. For many years now, the majority of the UK’s energy supply has come from gas, particularly for domestic heating, and a report by the Office for National Statistics found that the UK imports more than half of its energy supply from abroad. But according to a report by The Guardian, gas use has experienced a sharp decline, with the slack taken up by renewable sources such as wind, which has since become the largest supplier.
Renewable UK’s Director of Policy, Gordon Edge, was quoted in the newspaper discussing the future of wind energy: “Onshore and offshore wind farms have been growing rapidly and are now generating more than half of our clean electricity. The question is whether the UK will make fast enough progress on renewable heat and renewable transport as well - that’s looking less certain. If there’s a shortfall in those areas, we’ll need to generate more renewable electricity to hit the target.”
He also stated that he believed strict and legally-binding targets were the only way to ensure that the UK’s use of renewable energy continues to grow, and the government will need to “set more ambitious targets early on, in terms of how much wind they want to see installed, or the UK will risk falling short of the overall target.”
3. Powered by the sun
The UK has an abundance of natural energy sources; from the winds blowing across the Pennines to the waves crashing against the white cliffs of Dover. But considering the terrible weather that the country is famed for, many will be surprised when they learn that one of the UK’s best sources of energy has become solar power. In fact, according to a report released in April 2015, the UK has leapt ahead of Germany and India to third place in the world rankings for utility-scale solar energy. The UK jumped ahead after a spike in the number of solar panel installations during the first few months of 2015 and now only sits behind the United States and China, who are in first and second place respectively.
These positive figures were echoed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, who reported in January that the number of solar panel installations in the past 12 months had risen to 650,000. This is good news for those who are considering having solar panels installed on the roof of their home or business, as the technology becomes more readily available.
4. What about me?
Many people will surely be thinking that it’s all well and good that the UK’s wind and solar energy supply is increasing, but the most important question is, ‘what does that mean for me?’ The subject of high gas and electricity bills has dominated the news and people’s thoughts over the past few months, especially as some predict that they will rise even further.
As mentioned earlier, the UK currently imports a great deal of its gas and oil, which not only costs money, but the EU also has green taxes on the import of fossil fuels. As they impose more charges in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the big companies must pay more, and therefore increase their prices for the everyday customer.
For those who are struggling with huge energy bills at the moment, one of the quickest and most cost effective ways is to switch supplier. Comparing energy suppliers can ensure that you aren’t missing out on a better deal for your gas and electricity.
Thankfully, it appears that UK residents are increasingly receptive to renewable energy and are aware that it is the best option long term. The government’s latest Public Attitudes Tracker - published in April 2015 - confirmed that 78% of the public are behind the use of renewable energy, with solar power being the most favourable option according to the results.
The fact that most of the general public are pulling in the same direction further underlines the UK’s status as a renewable energy hub.
5. Britain's energy future
There’s no doubt that the UK has a long way to go before it can relinquish gas and oil and become fully dependent on renewable energy sources, but the figures regarding jobs from the Renewable Energy Association and those showing a significant increase in solar power use indicate that the country is well on its way to achieving that goal.
Future investment is critical, and figures have shown that £45 billion was invested into electricity generation and networks between 2010 and 2013. Last year, the government also revealed that energy projects account for 60% of the UK’s total infrastructure project pipeline, totalling over £200 billion. Of course, the election results could affect this, but it’s nevertheless encouraging to see so much money being committed to renewable energy generation.
So there you have it. Nobody’s saying that the UK is perfect when it comes to renewable energy. Who is, right? But it’s obvious that things are moving in the right direction. The drive towards greener energy will inevitably have an impact on consumers’ bills. If you’re a business and you’re looking to make economies, click here to learn more about how you can slash your bills.