This month I ask: What role do renewables, such as wind and solar, have to play in the future of the UK energy mix?
Renewable energy sources are increasing their presence within the UK energy mix. To be exact, in 2014 a grand total of 19% of electricity generated in the UK, came from renewables and future government plans want to see this percentage rise further. Safeguards against climate change, environmental group pressures and carbon emission targets all lobby in favour of a more renewables- heavy energy mix, but their downfall is their ever questioned economic viability. A classic example of this was in 2013, when the UK wide press detailed articles stating alarming consumer subsidy figures of over £1 billion to wind turbine owners. With current economic austerity measures looming left, right and Tory, it has become increasingly difficult to advocate the expansion of renewable energy sources, such as wind power, which appear to be completely cost inefficient.
However, wind power, together with solar power, actually constitutes a very small portion of renewable energy sources, with biomass currently providing the majority (> 60%) of “high [output] renewables”. As such it does not seem correct to tarnish all renewable energy sources with the same waste-of-tax-money brush currently squandering over UK wind turbines. According to MoneySavingExpert.com, simply owning a solar panel on a family property in Manchester is expected to reduce your bills by over £600 per year, so at a local scale at least the money behind using renewables impresses a bit more sense. Perhaps therefore it is not a question of what role renewables will play in the future of the UK’s energy mix, especially as they are clearly here to stay and to develop, but rather which renewable energy sources should continue to have a place in this future? Perhaps we will all be walking on “Solar Freakin’ Roadways” before we know it…
Helena S Davies is a Ph.D. student at The University Of Manchester