Britain is fast accelerating the race to become a net-zero carbon emissions country by 2050 and renewable energy solutions are part of that journey. Read this article to learn more about the different type of green energy solutions
Like a lot of us, when we first learned about renewable energy, whether that be in school or in the news, we were a bit confused: ‘How does a panel on a roof turn sunlight into electricity?’ or ‘How does an electric car save greenhouse gases when its made in a factory?’. There’s always a lot of questions when you’re introduced to new and exciting things.
Energy Point have worked together with companies such as gasfast.org, boyler.co.uk and have used our panel of energy experts to give you the best information about renewable energy and the direction of Britain’s Green future.
> Boris Johnson speaks about the future of the environment at COP26. Photo Credits: Number 10
Renewable energy is energy which is harvested from often infinite sources, for example the sun, wind, thermal or from water. The great thing about renewable energy is that its great for the environment and doesn’t create greenhouse gases like fossil fuels do.
Yes, to create a wind turbine or an electric car, etc. you often do have to emit greenhouse gases in that process; but when you weigh up the long-term gain, renewable energy and renewable energy products win every time.
Unfortunately, we’re stuck with fossil fuels for a while, whilst we transition over to renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines, solar panels and nuclear power plants.
Part of the Government’s plan (and many other world leader’s plans) are to make environmentally-friendly products and renewable energy easier to access and use. For example, just recently in October 2021, Boris Johnson announced that UK homeowners will be eligible for a £5,000 grant for heat pumps, which are net-zero carbon alternatives to gas or oil boilers.
Fossil fuels, like crude oil and coal for example, are trapped under the ground and need to be excavated from the ground. Once these raw materials are removed from the ground, they are then burned to produce energy, which is often turned into electricity or to fuel a vehicle / piece of equipment.
So, why is burning fossil fuels bad? Because every time we burn fossil fuels, we release CO2 gas into the atmosphere, which causes the following issues:
> An oil pump jack on the middle of the wheat field with the beautiful sunset sky. A pump jack is a device used in the petroleum industry to extract crude oil from an oil well where there is not high enough pressure in the well to force the oil to the surface.
As you can see, fossil fuels really are that bad, and that’s why there’s a major shift in world politics and policy to focus on fixing these issues and eliminating or dampening the use of fossil fuels and other polluting products, such as petrol and diesel cars.
On different ways to limit your ‘carbon footprint’, take the WWF Footprint questionnaire at footprint.wwf.org.uk.
There’s the usual, bog-standard renewable energy solutions, such as solar, wind and nuclear; but what about geothermal and water turbines? Learn more about each green-energy source below.
You probably already know a great deal about solar energy, because it’s one of the UK’s most popular renewable energy sources with home-owners.
Solar energy is gathered through the use of solar panels, usually in massive solar panel farms, or simply on the roof of your house.
Panels, such as the ones shown in the picture, are great for saving money on energy bills and cut carbon emissions immensely.
For more information, visit the ‘Solar Panels’ section.
> Solar panels installed on a newly built home in the Netherlands.
> A wind turbine farm, located in an empty field, under the blue cloudy sky.
Usually placed far out at sea, on hills or in empty fields, wind turbine farms gather a lot of wind energy which is transformed into electricity to power millions of homes across the UK.
In fact, it powers 24.8% of Britain and is the largest source of electricity.
Ignore the myths about wind turbines not working, killing birds or being noisy – they must be working because the UK has 10,973 of them and they probably power your home!
No, not all nuclear power plants fail like in Chernobyl… this isn’t Soviet Russia, and it isn’t the 80s. There are currently over 440 operational nuclear power plants in the world producing electricity.
But is nuclear energy really renewable? Yes and no – it’s one of the cleanest forms of energy and doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases, only steam; but to create nuclear energy you must split the atoms of an ore called ‘Uranium’, which isn’t infinite.
Good news? Some researchers say that nuclear energy could last us 4 billion years (if we’re still around).
> A nuclear power plant producing electricity in a remote location.
> Krasnoyarsk hydroelectric power station-draining water from two locks in the evening to prevent the risk of flooding.
Energy is captured from water, usually through it’s kinetic energy (i.e. flowing water). A key example of how useful capturing water energy, by using a hydroelectric power station (see picture), is Hoover Dam – which is accountable for 40% of Las Vegas’s renewable energy and powers 1,300,000 homes.
Hydroelectric power stations or dams, are located across the world and serve an important function for many different communities.
Britain may well see more hydroelectric power stations in the future.
Currently, the UK doesn’t have any geothermal power stations, but there are places that would benefit from one.
Geothermal energy plants work by extracting heat from the Earth’s core – completely renewable and very low cost – just dig a long hole and take the heat from it.
Plenty of countries across the world use geothermal power plants to gather energy to turn it into electricity, take for example the Wairakei Geothermal Station (see photo).
> Wairakei Geothermal Station near Taupo in New Zealand.
So, as you can see there are plenty of different options for renewable energy in the UK and across the globe. Britain have already adopted quite a few of these green-energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels, but what else are and can we do to make Britain’s energy journey future greener? Boris Johnson announced in Oct 2021 that heat pumps may help us get there…
See what I did there? Anyway, I mention heat pumps, because recently, Boris Johnson (UK Prime Minster) has announced that homeowners will be offered a grant of £5,000 to switch their gas boilers to a heat pump alternative. All of this is in effort for the nation to become net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the ground or air around your home, turning it into energy to heat your water and home.
The main criticisms of heat pumps is that they’re excessively expensive (ground heat pumps can cost up to £35,000 to install) and that there are other, greener and cheaper alternatives such as ‘Microwave Boilers’.
Although the name is quite self-explanatory, we will break it down for you.
Microwave boilers work, (quite like domestic kitchen microwaves) by heating up the water in the boiler with electronic microwave energy. Our Energy Point panel of experts believe that these end up being better for the environment because they:
But the real question is that are greener alternatives, such as microwave boilers and heat pumps the future of Britain’s energy journey? We think so; whilst gas boilers are still great and vital for heating millions of homes and are getting greener, the time will soon come over the next few decades to switch over to other ways of heating and powering your home.
The future of Britain’s energy is still not a cut and clear path, but it’s evident that it’s making its way to a future and far more sustainable future. It’s really important that we all play our part in securing the future of the Earth’s environment for our children, grand-children and the generations to come after us. Whether that means you need to cut down on the meat you eat, recycle more or even sign a petition – every little action to stop climate change and global warming is a step in the right direction. It’s a sacrifice, that as the human race, we all need to make and support.
Our energy expert panel estimate that renewable energy will soon, in the next few decades, completely overtake fossil fuels and homes will be powered and heated with greener methods, such as insulation, solar panels and with equipment such as heat pumps and microwave boilers.
It’s great that governments and world-leaders are taking decisive and executive actions to protect the environment, but is it enough? Scientists and leading researchers say that drastic action is required to stem the effects and consequences of global warming. Our experts say that governments should focus on solar panels for new-build and existing homes and the insulating of homes. The government should expand grants and support for people to put solar panels on their homes and commercial buildings.
In conclusion, the future of Britain’s energy is looking bright… and green.
For more information on renewable energy sources or how you can begin to make your home greener, better for the environment and more energy-efficient visit our homepage or services section.