2017 may be blacklisted in many peoples’ minds as the year of tedious Brexit negotiations, and Trump withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. However, amid the growing scepticism and uncertainty of 2017, there is a positive to take forward into 2018 – the UK has shone through with its greenest year to date. This is a notable achievement in the country’s effort to strive towards sustainability.
Renewable energy is advancing more quickly than ever before, with the UK breaking many clean energy records last year. But how does the UK’s renewable energy generation compare to other European countries? And how can your business drive forward the UK’s green agenda through renewables?
The UK’s progress – 24 hours without coal
On Friday 21st April 2017, the UK had its first continuous 24-hour period of using no coal power since the Industrial Revolution. This is a significant moment in reducing our carbon emissions and is largely due to the increase in energy production from renewable sources. It was followed by the blustery and bright day of 7th June, when more energy was generated from wind, nuclear and solar than gas and coal combined.
On Sunday 11th June, now known as ‘Stunning Sunday’, the carbon intensity of power production fell below the 2030 target of 100g CO2 per kWh for the first time ever. This is a glimpse into the future of energy generation. Throughout 2017, intensity continued to fall, but the UK still has a way to go to achieve the 2030 target.
Wind power in the UK
The UK mainly produces renewable energy through wind, solar, wave and bioenergy. The leading renewable source of energy in the UK is wind power, producing 12.8% of the UK’s energy. 7.5% of this is on-shore and 5.3% off-shore. Due to high average wind speeds, the UK is the best-positioned country in Europe for wind power.
The largest wind farm in the UK is Whitelee Wind Farm, opened in 2009, consisting of 215 turbines able to power just under 300,000 homes. It has become an eco-tourist attraction, raising awareness of the importance of renewable energy in the UK. Interest in this site should lead to further investment in renewable energy implementation.
European renewable energy leaders to watch
Although the UK has come on leaps and bounds with renewable energy generation, Sweden is top of the league, not just as a European leader, but the world leader in renewables.
Sweden has set a global example; setting a target for 100% renewable energy production by 2040, aiming to be the world’s first fossil fuel free nation. In 2016, 52% of Sweden’s power came from renewable energy sources (This figure was only 25% for the UK.). Unlike the UK, where we largely use wind turbines, the majority of Sweden’s renewable energy comes from hydropower, with over 2,000 hydropower plants nationally.
The Netherlands have big renewables plans – literally! They plan to build the largest offshore wind farm on Earth by 2027. This would consist of a 2.3 square mile artificial island in the North Sea for 10,000+ wind turbines. In order for the UK to keep up when it comes to renewables, the UK government needs to implement a more ambitious National Renewable Energy Action Plan in the near future.
How can your business do its part to keep the world below 2oC temperature rise in alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement?
Solar PV – This option is suitable for most businesses with a south facing roof and produces energy during the day – a peak time for most businesses. The government-funded Feed in Tariff (FiT) pays out for every unit of electricity that you produce from Solar PV, supporting small-scale solar installations, perfect for SME’s.
Biomass boiler – A low carbon form of heating – biomass boilers use natural waste matter. Biomass pellets are currently about the same price per kWh as natural gas, however, gas prices are forecast to rise, making a biomass boiler a worthwhile long-term investment.
Air source heat pump – Uses heat from the air, transferred to a fluid, and boosts this to a higher temperature using a small amount of electricity. Heat pumps are a very energy efficient form of heating – delivering between 2 to 4 units of heat per unit of electricity, and require little maintenance.
Carbon Smart has helped ASOS to determine the best renewable energy option, cutting cost and carbon emissions, as part of the construction of a new facility in Berlin. ASOS chose to prioritise Solar PV based on key environmental and financial metrics provided by Carbon Smart.
An alternative option to renewable energy installation is to procure your electricity on a green supply tariff. The energy supplier will purchase renewable energy on your behalf, supporting its increasing generation. Carbon Smart has recently supported Dentsu Aegis Network to procure green energy across their European offices, reducing their carbon footprint.
By considering alternative energy options, your business can implement, produce and use renewable energy, as well as procure electricity from renewable sources. Take the step towards a greener business and contribute to the UK’s continued efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and to accelerate renewable energy production.