Strategy of Renewable Energy in UK
Strategies of Renewable Energy in UK
Energy resources are one of the most important natural resource for any economy around the world. This is because the energy is an essential and integral part of every human’s life. From domestic use to industrial operations, from transportation to power generation, energy is the fundamental requirement in every aspect.
Ever since the industrial revolution began, the demand for energy resources increased more than ever before. Massive manufacturing plants meant more fuel energy was required. As a result of industrial revolution, electronic home appliances became a household essential, which meant that more power resources would be needed for domestic use. Later on, after the first and second world war, the world saw an age of rapid technological advancement. Railway systems, air transport, vehicles, computers, and other heavy mechanical industries were established at a rapidly increasing rate. This resulted in the demand of energy shooting up.
Talking about energy resources, there are two classifications of energy resources. The first group comprises of the non-renewable energy resources includes mainly fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. Non-renewable energy resources got their name from the fact that once used, they cannot be re used for another time. This means that they are not meant to last forever. This characteristic of them makes the non-renewable an expensive source of energy. Apart from that, an additional problem of non-renewable energy resources was that they contribute too much to polluting the natural environment. Mining and oil and gas exploration results in massive deforestation, emission of harmful gases etc., that pollutes nit only the natural environment, but also endangers the life of people and other living organisms living in the surrounding areas.
The second classification of the energy resources consists of renewable energy resources. As the name suggests, these energy resources do not pose a threat of depletion and can be used over and over again. There are numerous renewable energy resources including wind energy, hydro energy, tidal energy, solar energy, and biogas.
As the field of environmental science evolved, and studies and researches were carried out, scientists and researchers figured out the fact that non-renewable energy resources are rapidly depleting around the world. This led to two major consequences. The first consequence was that considering the importance of non-renewable energy resources, as renewable are still not used in many parts of the world, and considering the fact that the energy reserves are going down, wars and battles were triggered between and among countries in order to take over the maximum number of energy reserves. The second major consequence was, that since the economics of the world shifted towards a more free market economic system, where prices of commodities were to be determined by the active market forces of demand and supply, the depleting energy resources became much more expensive to use. As a result, power generation, transport and costs of production increased, which further resulted in cost push inflations, another indirect economic result of too much dependence on the non-renewable energy resources.
Over a period of time, researchers and environmentalists realized that taking over maximum energy resources is not the answer to the problem, and they will have to look for an alternative to the expensive and short-lived non-renewable energy resources. The continued and persistent dependence on the non-renewable energy resources, besides economical problems, is posing serious environmental threats. Emission of harmful gases has resulted in global warming, depletion of ozone layer, melting of glaciers and other serious climate changes. As a result, environmentalists concluded that shifting dependence on the renewable resources was inevitable, if safe and healthy planet is needed.
The United Kingdom Government
The United Kingdom was one of the first countries around the world that experienced the infamous industrial revolution. Rapid increase in British colonialization increased demand of British industrial goods around the world and thus, industrialization in the United Kingdom increased further. As mentioned earlier, in those times, the major dependence was only on non-renewable energy resources such as oil, natural gas and coal. The result was increasing pollution, environmental threats and economic pressures. Over a period of time, the government of United Kingdom started to take a keen interest in minimizing pollution and environmental threats within United Kingdom. A major step in this direction was to set up gas emission targets pertaining to green house gases and harmful Carbon dioxide gases. These targets were set following the Kyoto Protocol, which is United Nations legislation devised in order to fight global climate change (the Renewable Energy Center, n.d.).
Being itself an active permanent member of the United Nations Organization and a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, the United Kingdom government had taken a step in the direction to minimize and control global warming by setting up green house gas emission targets. The current targets aim to cut down on green house gas emissions by 34% by the year 2020 and a further reduction of 80% is aimed by the year 2050.
While these targets seem very commendable on paper, the environmentalists and researchers around the world, and especially those within the United Kingdom, had severely criticized these targets as impractical and overly ambitious. The past performance and achievement of government targets had shown that so far, in reality, the United Kingdom government had only be able to control green house gas emissions between 12% to seventeen percent as compared to its high targets of more than 30% (See Appendix). Environmentalists thus fail to understand how will the government achieve and overly ambitious target of 80% by 2050.
The critics further criticize the government of United Kingdom that their gas emission targets do not account for international gas emissions. This means that the government had ignored gas emissions and global warming that result from international aviation and shipping coming in to and going out from the United Kingdom. The international critics also criticize the government of United Kingdom for the fact that it does not take into consideration that other countries like China, who are trade partners with the United Kingdom, experience more serious levels of green house gas emissions.
With growing environmental concerns and the increase in the researches claiming that the wave of climate change is posing serious threats to the planet earth, countries around the world are trying to move towards a sustainable development policy. Sustainable development refers to incorporating such mechanisms into production, developmental, and progression processes, that ensures conservation of energy resources and thus, the conservation of the environment itself, and minimizes global warming and other environmental threats faced by the planet. Environmentalists around the world unanimously agree to the fact that increasing dependence on renewable energy resources such as solar, tidal, wind and hydro energy will contribute a great deal to the sustainable development. The following sections discuss how different types of renewable energy resources can be incorporated into the energy supply system of the United Kingdom, and sustainable development can be attained.
Incorporating Renewable Energy Resources in UK Energy Supply System:
As mentioned earlier, in order to minimize global warming and other environmental threats, working on the lines of sustainable development is essential. In order to achieve sustainable development, it is essential that renewable energy resources are incorporated in the energy supply system of United Kingdom (Ottinger & William 2002). However, before practically doing so, the government will need to have a clear phasing plan so that the desired targets can be achieved successfully.
In the initial stage, the government must carry out a critical environmental audit (Mcveigh & Mordue 1999). Since different kinds of renewable energy resources require certain climatic specifics, the government must analyze and assess that what areas are more suitable to which kind of renewable energy resources. For example, wind turbines can only be installed and are only workable in areas that experience winds at high speeds all year round.
Next a thorough cost benefit analysis will be required. Given the current economic crunch, and considering the fact that capital is also another scarce important resource, it is important to evaluate whether the cost of introduction of the suggested renewable energy resources would justify the benefits that will result from the project. Although, it is beyond doubt, that energy demands will se further increase in the forthcoming years. Having said that, an economic approach is still essential to be taken into account in order to ensure economic sustainability of the project.
Lastly, the government will have to launch massive awareness campaigns that ask people in general to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy resources and conserve energy. Private industrialists and corporate houses will have to be taken on board as well, because it is the industries that contribute most to the environmental hazards and consume most of the energy resources.
Scope of Introduction of Renewable Energy in UK Supply System
Given the geographical location of the United Kingdom, and the climatic specifics that UK enjoys, there are various forms of renewable energy resources that can be included in the United Kingdom’s energy supply system. However, dependence on one single form of renewable energy will not be practical as all geographical regions within the United Kingdom have their own geographical features and all energy uses have their own specific requirements. For this reason, a diverse range of renewable energy resources will have to be used suiting each geographical location and the use of energy.
Incorporation of wind energy in UK energy supply system has immense scope. This method involves converting the wind’s kinetic energy into mechanical energy and then generating power through a generator (the Renewable Energy Centre, UK). This can be done by installing either onshore or off shore commercial wind turbines. The problem with on shore wind turbines is that they are much more capital intensive and are time consuming to install. Furthermore, they involve a lot of legal formalities. On the technical side, the onshore wind projects may affect the operating efficiency of wind turbines due to water turbulence on the sea surface.
For this reason off shore wind turbines are a more viable option. The United Kingdom has a large continental shelf that receives wind at a speeds ideal for such wind energy projects. Wind turbines can be placed on high towers and can be connected to a grid system. Given the island status enjoyed by the United Kingdom, this seems to be a more viable option. However, this option has higher maintenance costs as compared to the onshore wind project. On the technical side, since the grid is required to be cabled with an under-sea cabling system, special components will be required to deal with corrosiveness that results from salt water.
Solar energy systems are considered a good source for powering domestic lighting and heating appliances around the world. This involves installing a solar panel at a roof top that radiates the sunlight and converts the sun’s energy into mechanical energy. In UK’s context a major technical constraint with this option is that its viability depends on how much energy can a solar panel conserve during the time of availability of sunlight. This is because; heating and lighting requirements are higher at the time when sun’s energy is at its lowest (the Renewable Energy Centre, UK).
The United Kingdom enjoys a vast coast line with some high tidal ranges. This opens a great scope for tidal energy project. The largest tidal power project in France generates 250 MW of electricity. If United Kingdom develops a number of such projects, a lot of non-renewable energy can be conserved. This project involves making high volumes of water flow into a barrage. The technical constraint involved with this method is that the flooding of barrages may cause enormous natural and environmental constraints, which questions the environmental viability of the project.
Since the above mentioned projects are huge and require not only high capital investments but also have huge technological and environmental constraints. For this reason it is more economically and technologically viable to install several smaller projects rather than a few larger ones. A number of small wind farms can be installed in inland areas of the United Kingdom that receive a decent speed of wind. Solar panels with high rate of energy conservation can be installed in houses and small shops, so that dependence on mainstream non-renewable power resources can be minimized. When constructing houses, efficient insulation must be ensured. Small scale and cost efficient energy conservation projects such as rainwater harvesting and waste water recycling must be launched at a massive level.
Scope of Nuclear Energy
After the Second World War, the concept of nuclear energy has also gained commendable popularity. Nuclear energy is generated through a fusion of atoms that generate high levels of heat energy, which is then converted into mechanical energy. If operational safety and efficiency is ensured, nuclear power poses little threat to climate. However, considering the tendency of human error, a single act of negligence may result in dire environmental and ecological consequences. Nuclear energy emits harmful radiation that nearly annihilates everything it comes into contact with. Accidents pertaining to leakage of nuclear wastes have been reported in some parts of the world. For this reason, many environmentalists do not advocate too much dependence on nuclear energy.
(UK Greenhouse Inventory, 2010)
Cochran, V, Davis, D & Claussen, E 2001, Climate Change, Brill, Boston.
Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2010, Climate Change Inventory, Government of UK.
The Renewable Energy Centre, n.d., the Renewable Energy Center, viewed 16 January 2010, .
Ottinger, R & William, R, 2002, Renewable Energy Sources for Development, Environmental Law, Vol. 32.
McVeigh, J & Mordue, J, 1999, Energy Demand and Planning, E & FN Spon, UK.
Edinger, R & Kaul, S 2003, Sustainable Mobility, Praeger, UK.
Lafferty, M & Meadowcroft, J 2000, Implementing Sustainable Development, Oxford University Press, UK.
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