With recent news of the Government’s plans to support a £1 billion project in Swansea – one that harnesses the power of the ocean’s tides – it seems that renewables are increasingly considered as serious solutions to our energy needs. So how much energy might renewables generate for the UK?
Just how much of our energy comes from renewable sources?
The short answer: more than you might think. In the first three months of 2014, renewable sources of energy accounted for nearly a fifth of Britain’s electricity. And in Scotland, renewables this year overtook nuclear power to become the main source of electricity. In fact, wind turbines in Scotland alone created enough electricity to power 3 million UK homes – far more than the domestic needs of Scotland itself.
But there’s still a way to go. Figures from the end of 2013 show that only 5.2% of the final energy consumption in the UK came from renewable sources, which is a fair way off the target of 15% by 2020 set by the European Union.
Swansea’s tidal farm could be a significant step forward
Plans have already been underway for some time now to construct a six-mile sea wall in Swansea Bay, at the estuary of the River Severn. This area reportedly holds the second-highest tidal range in the world, and its creators claim that their man-made, 320-megawatt lagoon could provide clean, renewable power for over 155,000 homes for 120 years.
Renewable projects like this aren’t just about reducing our carbon emissions. They could also make us less reliant on imported energy, as well as opening up new jobs in local communities. And with the Government set to provide taxpayer support for the project – as well as offering a guaranteed price for the electricity it generates – this could prove to be another step forward towards a clean, energy-secure Britain.
So the move to renewables is a perfect solution?
Not necessarily. While many people would certainly welcome a dramatic shift away from traditional energy sources towards more green sources of power, it may be some time before we can learn to rely on it entirely.
Paul Younger, professor of Energy Engineering at the University of Glasgow, thinks that Scotland’s recent upsurge in wind power won’t make us energy-secure just yet. ‘What we are seeing is a loss of capability in Scotland to generate on demand,’ he says. ‘Basically, nuclear generates steadily, 24/7, and we can increase generation from coal and gas as and when we need it. We desperately need not to lose sight of that.’
Find out more about how you could take advantage of renewable energy for your business here.