For decades, the UK’s power has mainly come from non-renewable energy sources, like gas, oil and coal. But that is going to change in the future as the proportion of the country’s energy output coming from renewable energy sources rises.¯¨
Recent statistics show renewable energy sources provide around 10% of the UK’s electricity, putting it in the top 10 nations in the world on the Environmental Performance Index, produced by Yale and Columbus Universities. However, the Low Carbon Transition Plan launched by the Brown government in 2009 outlined Britain’s intention to increase the country’s level of renewable energy to 30% by 2020.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at how close we are to reaching that target and what kind of energy sources we will be using to power our computers, ovens and radiators in years to come.
Wind power represents a major part of the UK’s renewable energy programme, accounting for around 5% of Britain’s electricity – a number that is set to increase dramatically in the future. The UK’s wind energy capacity reached 8 gigawatts (GW) in 2012, compared to just 300 megawatts in 1998. This increase is due to hundreds of new wind farms, both onshore and offshore, that have been built in the last 10 years.
In recent years, the UK has become the world’s leading producer of offshore wind power, with the world’s largest wind offshore wind farm located at Greater Gabbard in the Thames estuary.
The UK hasn’t seen major investment in wave power but projects are underway in Scotland and Cornwall. Given the UK is an island nation, wave power is something that could have great potential for generating energy.
Hydroelectric power is the most common form of renewable energy in the world, accounting for 16% of global electricity generation. In the UK, it accounts for between 15 and 20% of renewable energy but concerns over the number of suitable locations have prevented growth being as rapid as other forms of renewable energy.
With the Great British weather, you’d be forgiven for thinking solar power is a waste of time! But the British climate is comparable to that of Germany, which produces almost half of the EU’s total solar power output. Solar power in the UK is rapidly increasing, with the government estimating that 4 million homes will be powered by the sun by 2020.