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Is 100% renewable energy really an achievable goal?

WRITTEN BY TIM BROWN. The UK would, in theory, have the conditions required to rely heavily on renewable energy now and in the future. Being an island, hydro and wind power can be harnessed to a great extent — though the same can’t be entirely said for solar power, as the sun can be a rare delight — even in the warmer months.

Blueprint for the future

It is worth noting what efforts are being made in the US to achieve this goal and hopefully the UK can learn from their findings and apply them to make us all more energy efficient through renewable energy than we are at present.

Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson recently surmised that we have enough wind to power the entire world at least six times over.There are certainly a reasonable number of scientists who believe this statement was not pure hyperbole, and that the conditions are in place to achieve a world where we no longer depend upon oil, coal or nuclear sources.

Professor Jacobson is part of a team based in the United States called the Solutions Project, which has produced a blueprint detailing how different states can meet their own individual challenges and achieve 100% renewable energy.

 In the UK, energy suppliers like npower are constantly looking to develop ways of harnessing renewable energy sources to satisfy current and future power demands, and it is interesting to see the mix of resources needed to meet the magic target.

Taking a look at the blueprint produced by the Solutions Project on a state-by-state basis, the team has laid out a breakdown of different resources that can be used to create a region that relies on nothing but renewable energy for their power.

More initiatives required

Many of us are now very much aware that good insulation can save on energy costs and keep our homes warm, but more initiatives are definitely required if the UK is going to have any prospects of achieving 100% renewable energy targets at some point in the future. 

It is interesting to note that, from the start of 2014, wind and other renewable sources such as hydropower were able to generate a fifth of Britain’s electricity. That’s a positive step in the right direction. 

New wind farms are coming online in a rolling programme of expansion. The strong winds that can be a regular feature of these shores, combined with a good winter for hydropower plants, all contributed to a surge in renewable energy generation.

The amount of renewable energy generated went up from 12% to 19.4% during the period from January to March 2014, according to statistics released by the Department of Energy.

This represents enough power generated to supply around 15 million homes during the quarter and goes a long way in rebuffing critics who have previously said that renewables would not be able to account for such a large percentage of the energy mix.

How we compare

Even though the UK is currently behind its 2020 energy targets, we are still expected to fall into line with the EU-wide target set of 27% of energy coming from renewable sources. The lack of any further commitment is based on the idea that we need to see how the growth in low-carbon energy over the next few years affects future markets, before any further targets are set.

Good for the economy

If the government set about creating the infrastructure to make 100% renewable energy possible, it would also be good for the economy as well as the environment. Meaningful job creation is a very real benefit that is derived from something equally worthwhile, creating 100% renewable energy for future generations.

According to the Powering the UK 2013 report produced by Ernst & Young, the energy sector is already a major employer in the UK. It currently supports about 1 in every 45 jobs, and the number of workers employed within the energy sector grew from 90,000 in 2008 to 125,000 in 2012. That figure would definitely spike even further than current growth rates if measures were introduced to try and achieve a higher level of renewable energy in the UK.

When you pore through the data produced by the team based at Stanford University it makes compelling reading. If a similar project was undertaken in the UK, we could all be enjoying cleaner air, cheaper energy costs and more money in our pockets.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Brown's decades of research has culminated in both an applicable and theoretical understanding of what energy can do. With a focus on renewable and environmentally friendly energy concerns, he frequently writes about how the future of energy could change the modern world.  

Posted 19/08/2014 by Reg Tucker

Tagged under: UK , renewable energy targets

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