Currently, the UK produces around 15% of its electricity from renewable sources, with a further 20% being generated by nuclear power and the rest coming from fossil fuel sources. To put this in to perspective, this year Costa Rica has gone 75 days straight using renewable sources for 100% of its electricity and Sweden, a country that already produces two-thirds of its electricity through renewables, has pledged to be the world’s first fossil-fuel free nation.
On the other hand, the UK will see cuts on subsidies for renewable energy companies being implemented over the next few years, something that seems like a big step in the wrong direction. Despite this, the Department of Energy and Climate Change predict that renewable energy will be the UK’s biggest source of power by 2030, supported by a new fleet of nuclear power plants.
If all goes to plan, this will be a smooth transition from a largely fossil fuel-dependent nation to a world leader in low carbon emissions, with the aim of producing 40% of our energy from renewable sources within the next 15 years. Combined with the new-build nuclear power plants this will lead to almost complete divergence from fossil fuels. However, most renewable technologies are not yet economically viable (onshore wind is currently the only renewable technology that is competitive with fossil fuels). This, alongside the subsidy cuts, has now thrown doubt over the feasibility of these projections. To compound this, the very same nuclear power plant model that is to be constructed in the UK has been experiencing big delays in France. So, although it would be great to see the UK reduce our fossil fuel reliance in the next 15 years, let’s not hold our breath just yet.
Tom Neill is a Ph.D. student at The University Of Manchester