While we were never that in love with the idea of fracking, support for the industry reached an all-time low recently. Whether that’s because we’re now more aware of the environmental and public impact of this industry or because of the large numbers of protests that have taken place up and down the country, only 17% of us are now in favour of any kind of fracking.
Nuclear has also suffered from a fall in popularity, particularly in the wake of the debacle that seems to be Hinkley Point – a white elephant in the Government room that could cost the UK a lot of money for many years to come. Recent news that Hinkley Point was £1.5 billion over budget already hasn’t helped quell fears that we’re heading in the wrong direction by going back to nuclear. There’s also the perennial concern about how we handle nuclear waste and it’s environmental impact in the future.
In contrast, almost 80% of us are in favour of renewables and clean energy. Just 4% are against, according to a recent report in the Guardian.
The Scottish government has banned fracking after a consultation found overwhelming public opposition and little economic justification for the industry. Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse says
“Allowing unconventional extraction of coal and gas would put climate goals at risk”.
So, what are the options we should be considering, now that fracking and nuclear popularity is at an all-time low? The great news is there are plenty of options for the UK. We just need to invest more in them. And we need our Government to listen.
Wind: Still a Force to Be Reckoned With
According to the General Wind Council:
- The wind industry has generated over a million jobs.
- A 6MW installation can deliver power for 5,500 homes.
- The global capacity at the end of 2015 was a staggering 486 GW.
Despite its detractors, wind remains one of the most successful of our renewable resources and one of the cheapest. It’s also a sector that isn’t standing still. New developments mean we’ll start seeing a whole range of different turbines including ones that fly high up in the air like kites.
Solar Farms On the Rise?
Having had to battle cuts to feed in tariffs and tax rises in recent times, solar remains potentially a good investment for big business. That’s why we’re still seeing farms being developed across the UK, particularly in areas like North Wales at Kimnel Bay. While some projects are being put on hold at the moment while investors wait for the costs to add up better, you can expect the solar sector to rise like the veritable phoenix in the future.
Tidal Power Could Be Key To UK Future
Tidal power has been ebbing and flowing much like the waves on our shores but could revolutionise renewable energy in the UK – if we get it right. Wales seems to be the focal point at the moment with Cardiff and Swansea designated as sites for large tidal lagoons. Smaller projects off the coast of Holyhead are investigating how tidal ‘kites’ can be floated below the surface of our seas to provide electricity. This is a huge natural resource for the UK and there are many experts who believe harnessing the waves could supply almost all of the electricity we need.
Slightly off the wall but intriguing none the less is the increasing focus on solar and kinetic tiles that can produce electricity. Imagine walking down the street and stepping on paving slabs that help generate power for the surrounding buildings and lights. The idea has been around for a good few years now and this kind of innovation provides a brilliant insight into how the infrastructure around us can be used to create power. Add into the mix the possibility of creating solar roads and you begin to see the importance of diversifying energy production.
The truth is that there is a whole load of innovation and out of the box thinking going on when it comes to creating energy, particularly in areas like cities. While some of these are certainly out of the box, many point to the fact that our future energy production is going to be clean and largely renewable but it’s also going to be varied.
Why do we need to frack for shale gas? What’s the point of creating nuclear waste that could take thousands and thousands of years to degrade and become safe? The money invested in these endeavours could better be used in developing clean technologies – after all, the evidence shows us that it’s what people, not just in the UK but around the world, actually want. There’s a disconnect when you understand that the UK Government has decided to invest £246 million in battery technology but is putting £30 billion plus into a new nuclear station.
While there can be a temptation to run wild with innovation and the future potential, there is enough evidence to suggest that we need to move away from old, traditional power sources and embrace the new more fully.
The future can be cleaner than we think – all we have to do is bring everything together.