11 renewable energy good news stories
By Richard Dyer 7th November 2016
Here are the latest facts about renewable energy and future energy solutions in the UK and around the world.
(1) Renewables now supply 25% of the UK’s electricity
Renewables are no longer just future energy solutions, they are mainstream.
In 2015 the UK produced a quarter of its electricity from renewables, up from 6% just a few years ago.
100,000 people in the UK work in renewable energy
For 3 months in 2016 solar generated more electricity than coal. In fact on a sunny day, solar panels alone can provide up to a fifth of our power.
About half of the renewables share came from wind power (onshore and offshore), the remainder from hydro, solar and biomass.
(2) People love renewables
Despite what some newspapers seem to think, renewable energy is consistently popular with the UK public: 80% of us support green energy while only 19% support fracking.
(3) Renewables are now some of the cheapest forms of electricity
Onshore wind is now the cheapest form of new electricity generation in the UK. Big solar is not far behind.
Both onshore wind and solar are significantly cheaper than new nuclear.
In the USA solar recently produced the cheapest electricity they've ever generated, while in South Africa it was recently announced that both onshore wind and solar are cheaper than new coal.
(4) Renewable energy is a global green revolution
Renewable power has for several hours supplied 100% (or more) of electricity to Scotland, Germany, Denmark and Portugal in the past year.
Every hour China builds a large wind turbine and a solar installation the size of a football pitch
Renewables supplied 99% of electricity used in Costa Rica in 2015.
Scotland expects to generate all its electricity from renewables by 2020.
China and the USA are now the world’s largest investors in new renewable generation.
(5) The cost of green energy keeps falling
The price of solar has fallen more than 50% in the past 5 or 6 years. The cost of offshore wind has fallen by almost a quarter.
Indeed, the speed of the fall in costs of renewable energy consistently outstrips many expert predictions.
(6) There are huge advances in batteries and energy storage
We know that the wind doesn’t always blow, and more renewable energy require more storage. Fortunately there are huge advances happening all the time.
Renewable energy storage batteries that enable householders to save money by using more of their home-generated electricity are already available – like Tesla’s “power wall” – and the costs of renewable energy storage solutions are falling dramatically.
The UK’s first large-scale battery – big enough to power over 1,000 homes for a day – was recently installed in Bedfordshire and the National Grid is commissioning further projects.
(7) Smart grids could change everything
What's a smart grid, I hear you ask?
Imagine being able to sell your excess solar power to your neighbour, or buy your electricity from the community wind farm down the road?
Imagine programming your heating to come on when the grid’s carbon emissions are lowest, or allowing the grid to take a small amount of power from your electric car while it is parked?
Smart grids – connecting energy infrastructure to IT – could make this possible, holding out the hope of cleaner, cheaper energy for all, and the technology is advancing all the time.
(8) Green energy and China
China is the world’s largest investor in new renewable technology, installing more wind and solar in 1 year than the UK has in the last 10.
In fact China managed to cover its huge increase in electricity demand in 2015 entirely with renewable power.
China’s renewable energy policy means it is building a large wind turbine and a solar PV installation the size of a football pitch every hour on average.
China has also announced measures to restrict the building of new coal-fired power stations and its coal consumption is set to decline for the third year running.
(9) Green energy creates more jobs than fossil fuels
Renewable energy is good for jobs. Investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency creates over 6 times the number of jobs (pdf)per unit of electricity generated than investment in the conventional gas industry.
Across the UK, over 100,000 people are employed in renewable energy.
(10) Community renewables are giving power to the people
For decades most of our electricity supply has been controlled by large companies who largely act in the interests of their shareholders. But this could be changing.
Community energy schemes enable local communities to share in the economic benefits of renewable energy projects, because communities actually own the source of the power (wind turbines, for example).
Across the country there are 5,000 community energy projects in the UK. Recently Bristol Energy Cooperative managed to successfully raise £10 million, making it the largest such scheme in the country.
While it’s true that recent government policies have made it harder for communities to follow their example, the medium-term future looks bright, and the potential for growth is huge.
In Denmark 3/4 of wind turbines were community owned in 2013, while in Germany 1/3 of renewable energy is owned by community schemes.
(11) Fossil fuel companies are being forced to shift towards renewables
The surge in renewable power is changing the economics of the energy system, and companies which don’t evolve will lose out.
In Germany the utility giants RWE and EON have been forced split in two, creating divisions solely focused on renewable energy and energy services, as their fossil fuel assets struggle to make profits.
Huge corporate energy interests like AGL, Engie and Energy UK have all announced strategies in 2016 of shifting away from fossil fuels towards strategies encompassing renewables, energy efficiency and energy services.