Renewable Energy in the UK

Ozone Hole Arctic

Recently, it has been reported that our planet has been making some slow progress towards healing itself. The ozone layer has closed a tiny bit (which is still great news), and the planet is become cleaner each year. Of course, we cannot expect to see results overnight, and the process of global warming has been massively increased by us. However, it is fantastic to see the amount of change being made by the people of this planet, and the progress we are making towards a better future. In the UK, we use several types of renewable energy to help power homes and buildings. Here they are in a little more detail.

Wind Energy

In the UK, wind power is the number one form of renewable energy for the production of electricity. There are nearly 7000 turbines in the country, working every day to generate electricity and try to reduce the number of fossil fuels used. In the world, the UK is the sixth largest producer of wind energy, which is an impressive number. Our use and production of wind power is expected to increase massively in the future, particularly over the next five years. It’s great news for the future of energy production in the UK.

Marine Energy

Generating electricity from wave and tidal power is ideal for the UK due to the fact that it is an island completely surrounded by the sea. There is a lot of potential for them to generate a great deal of power for the country, but very little money has been put towards their development, so they have not been able to demonstrate this. The lack of funding is due to doubts over both the economic viability, but also possible effects on the sea life in the surrounding area.

Solar Energy

Solar power started out very small in the UK, many wondered how a country that is so often cloudy can produce enough energy via the sun. It turns out, that we actually rank in the top 10 solar producing countries in the world. Its use has increased massively over the years, you may notice more and more homes have started to place them on their roofs, and solar farms have increased in popularity. It is estimated that by around 2018, 4 million homes will be powered by solar energy.

Biomass Energy

Biofuels are the gas produced from things like sewage and landfills, and currently it holds a firm second place for the renewable energy with the best electricity production in the UK. It is fantastic to see how popular this form of sustainable energy has become in the UK, and without harming the environment. After all, in South America, biofuels appear to have become an excuse for further deforestation of the Rainforest.

Hydroelectric Energy

In 2015, hydroelectric power contributed to nearly 2% of the total electricity produced through renewable sources. Currently, Wales has the largest Hydroelectric plant in the UK, situated over the Dinorwig Reservoir. It is a pumped storage power plant, meaning they are net consumers of electrical energy, but also contribute, balancing out the grid.

To Conclude

These primary forms of renewable energy in the UK show it to be quite promising. With continued use and growth of these plants and farms, we will notice a huge different in both the planet and our energy consumption, even within the next five years. The path to global green is looking good.

The Challenges Facing the UK’s New Energy Minister

Greg Clark

A change of department and a change of minister. This could be exciting times for the energy industry. Following the installation of a new UK PM and the upheaval of the recent Brexit vote, all hopes for a clean energy future have fallen on the shoulders of one Greg Clark, Tory MP for Tunbridge Wells.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, here’s a quick recap of where we are with renewable energy in the UK. Things were going fine up until May last year with plenty of policies in place following the coalition government that came into effect in 2010. That meant solar panels companies and wind power installations were being supported by subsidies such as the Feed in Tariff and people were generally being helped in their clean energy aspirations via schemes such as the Green Deal.

When the Conservative Government gained a majority in 2015, things took a turn for the worse. Amber Rudd took over the DECC and decided that Feed in Tariffs were a bad idea and that we should be building less wind farms. In January this year, the FiT was slashed, causing consternation in the solar industry as domestic installations in particular began to fall significantly.

Following the Brexit vote in June, we now no longer have the same Prime Minister, nor do we have a Department of Energy and Climate Change. We do, however, have is Greg Clark.

Who is Greg Clark?

MP for Tunbridge Wells, Greg Clark, has been a special advisor in trade and industry departments and became a politician in his own right in 2001. Since then he has worked as the Shadow Secretary for the DECC and has produced a couple of interesting policy papers on clean energy and climate change. Until recently he was Secretary of State for Communities. In short, Clark has an understanding of the renewables industry and about 15 years’ experience as a politician.

Now head of the new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, he had this short statement to make when he took up his position:

“I am thrilled to have been appointed to lead this new department charged with delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, leading government’s relationship with business, furthering our world-class science base, delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change.”

What are the Challenges?

In short, there are plenty and most of them are urgent.

One of the first problems is actually going to be setting up his new department. This is no mean feat in Westminster and can often take a good deal of time – finding staff, premises and getting things up and running is a notoriously protracted affair. That means it could be a while before policies start to become clear, something green activists and enthusiasts are not going to be too happy about.

At first sight, bringing together energy and climate change with business and industry makes a good deal of sense. However, a number of key players in the green sector have expressed their disappointment that climate change is not even mentioned in the title of the department. Clark is going to have to do a lot of work convincing people that he is serious about it considering the confusion of the last couple of months.

A key problem that the MP for Tunbridge Wells is going to have to face fairly quickly is the issue of Hinkley Point. In particular, there may be problems now that Brexit is actually a reality. How is this going to effect the deal? And are French company EDF going to be able to bring the project in on time and budge – something that seems increasingly unlikely?

A lot of investment has stalled because of the Brexit vote and the Government’s confused energy policy in recent times, with delays to important projects such as the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon which is in danger of failing because investors are getting cold feet. How this is addressed is not clear at the present time but is key to stop further damage to the renewables industry in the UK.

There’s no doubt there is much for Greg Clark to do. But there are a number of fans in the world of renewables who think he is the man for the job. According to ECIU Director Richard Black:

“He understands climate change, and has written influential papers on the benefits of Britain developing a low-carbon economy. Importantly, he sees that economic growth and tackling climate change are bedfellows, not opponents – and he now has the opportunity to align British industry, energy and climate policy in a way that has never been done before.”

Leading The Way in Renewable Energy

The World

Our planet is running out of fossil fuels, and it’s no secret. As a result, countries across the world have been trying to find better and more sustainable sources of energy to keep us powered. The best way to save the planet is to start incorporating renewable energy into our daily lives until it becomes the most commonly used type of fuel. It is possible to save the world by working together, and that is just what countries like the ones below are trying to do. Take a look at some of the leading countries for renewable energy and type they are using.

Sweden

One of the top countries for renewable energy, Sweden have invested in a wide range of renewable energies (such as solar and wind) as well as clean transport. They have stated that they aim to be the first country to use 100% renewable energy, asking countries across the globe to challenge them to the position. So far they have had excellent success, to the point where they actually ran out of recycling and started taking it from other countries.

Denmark

If there is one thing to note about Scandinavian countries, it is how exceptionally clean they are. Denmark is no exception. In 2015, 42% of the country’s power was provided from wind farms, and that was with two offline. It broke the world record, and they plan to be completely free from fossil fuels by 2050.

Germany

Germany is the leading county for solar power (with the UK placing 8th in the rankings). Through its fantastic solar energy program, it has been able to produce up to 78% of a day’s worth of electricity through this source of renewable energy. This is especially significant due to the generally cloudy weather the country receives.

China

China is leading the race when it comes to wind energy (with the UK placing 6th in the rankings). This country, known for its smog and pollution, actually created the largest number of wind farms and ranks second in the production of solar energy. They have even promised to phase out the use of coal and clean their air.

Scotland

When it comes to wind power, Scotland is coming in strong. In fact, in 2015 they were able to produce enough wind power to fuel 97% of the country’s household electricity needs. This is a great step forward for the United Kingdom, and one that shows hope for the future of renewables in the country.

Costa Rica

It may be small, but it’s certainly powerful. An island committed to the environment and the production of sustainable energy, in 2015 they were able to 99% of their electricity through purely sustainable resources. In fact, they are set to be carbon neutral by 2021. Its unique geography makes it ideal for a range of renewable energy, from wind farms to hydroelectric.

Kenya

This hot African country was able to use geothermal energy to produce 51% of its electricity in 2015. This has saved massively on electricity imports as well as having a positive impact on the environment. With their wind farm nearly complete, this number is set to jump up by 20% by next year. A fantastic number.

To Conclude

It is wonderful to see the results that can be achieved by working together to use more renewable and sustainable energy sources. If we, as a planet, continue to work like this then we won’t be using fossil fuels much longer. With some of the biggest countries in the world leading the race, the smaller ones are not far behind.

Tesla Wants to Buy SolarCity: Storage and Power Production Perfectly Combined?

Tesla-SolarCity

News recently that car company and battery maker Tesla were looking to buy the biggest US solar company hasn’t come as a surprise to many in the renewables industry. On the surface it makes perfect sense considering Tesla have been at the forefront of developing the battery technology that could revolutionise clean energy production in the future.

The Upside of a Tesla/SolarCity Merger

Tesla have long been at the forefront of the electric car industry and have recently been forging ahead with the development of battery storage technology for renewable products such as solar panels. One of the key drivers for success when it comes to wind and solar is how we store electricity for later use. Solar panels don’t produce energy all the time – they depend on the sun shining. Without a way to store all that power, the efficacy of solar as an energy source, particularly off grid, is reduced.

The development of batteries that can be added to solar panel systems has been a long time coming. After all, we’ve had panels for the last twenty years. But in recent times, companies like Tesla have made big steps forward and their latest Powerwall has been making a decent splash on the world market. Merging with the largest solar panel provider in the US therefore makes good sense and could help Tesla market and develop their battery technology further.

The Downside of the Merger

News from Forbes and other news outlets recently however have suggested that this is less than a marriage made in heaven. SolarCity has been struggling for a while and Tesla could be buying a company in what is tantamount to a bailout. According to Forbes, recent losses may make the acquisition of SolarCity a bad move for the electric car company:

“Much of the losses have been covered by debt, but I think that source of capital may be drying up. The firm’s total debt, which includes off-balance sheet operating leases, has grown from $342 million in 2012 to $4 billion over the last twelve months.”

There is also a suggestion that Tesla is overvalued itself on the stock market and that could make the deal dangerous for the company. A lot depends on the vision of Elon Musk and how he sees the long term impact of the merger.

Tesla and Elon Musk

The electric car company is owned by multi-billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and there is surprise on the markets that he still wants to buy SolarCity even though his shareholders are deeply suspicious of the potential deal. According to Forbes:

“Tesla’s TSLA -0.45% shares dropped over 11% in after hours trading, temporarily knocking billions of dollars from Tesla’s market value. The deal, if approved, would only be worth $2.5 billion to $3 billion.”

While the short term risks for the merger are big, Musk sincerely believes that aligning with SolarCity could be highly beneficial in the long term, creating a major player in the energy market. In the end it would create a company that would be able to generate electricity through solar panels and store it using Tesla batteries, a player that is highly attractive to consumers and could lead to a domination of the market. It’s a pretty big gamble and could see Tesla gaining traction that will have many other energy producers scrambling to keep up.

The figures don’t entirely add up and it’s probably one of the biggest calculated gambles that Musk has taken on in recent times. If it works, the sky’s the limit. If it fails, it could see the end of Tesla, SolarCity and Elon Musk.