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Renewable energy is created from natural sources that are unlimited or continually replenished, such as the sun, wind, and water.  Renewable electricity involves no fossil fuels in its creation and produces zero carbon dioxide emissions when it is generated. Some 40% of the electricity in the National Grid comes from renewable sources, according to the latest government figures (for 2020-2021).

Renewable energy technologies use natural energy to make electricity. Fuel sources include wind, wave, marine, hydro, biomass, and solar. It is also made using sources of natural energy that are quickly replaced, such as biomass.

What is renewable energy?

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Renewable energy is a fuel sources include wind, wave, marine, hydro, biomass, and solar. It is also made using sources of natural energy that are quickly replaced, such as biomass. Renewable energy produce more than 20% of the UK's electricity, and EU targets mean that this is likely to increase to 30% by 2020.

Support schemes for renewable energy

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In the UK there are several schemes that provide financial support for renewable energy. These schemes encourage technological development and wider adoption of renewables which in turn lead to economies of scale and lower costs.

  • The Renewable Obligation (RO) is intended to encourage renewable energy electricity generation for large-scale installations. It requires suppliers to source an ever-increasing amount of electricity from renewable energy sources. The RO rewards renewable output over the lifetime of a project.
  • The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) is designed to support small-scale renewable installations up to 5MW. Through FiTs, generators are paid a tariff for every unit of electricity they produce. Any electricity not used on-site can also be sold back into the Grid, and generators are paid extra to do this. Find out more about the FiT scheme at Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
  • A new scheme to support renewables and other low carbon technologies is currently being developed through Electricity Market Reform. The scheme will be called a Feed-in Tariff with a Contract for Difference (CfD).

Types of renewable energy 

Wind and solar account for a large proportion of renewable electricity generation in the UK. But hydroelectricity and bioenergy contribute too. Nuclear power is a low-carbon power source, but it's not renewable. Some sources of renewable power are intermittent, meaning that they are only available in certain conditions (such as when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining).

Power from wind turbines   

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The UK is well placed to take advantage of wind power, with some of the best conditions in Europe and high average wind speeds. Both onshore and offshore wind farms are an important part of where the UK sources its energy. The UK has invested significantly in offshore wind and has installed as much capacity as the rest of the world combined.

Wind power is the second-largest source of UK electricity. Wind turbines produced around a fifth of the electricity generated in the UK in 2020, according to the government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). When the wind spins the propeller-like blades of a wind turbine, it turns a shaft inside the turbine. A generator converts the kinetic energy of the shaft turning into electrical energy. Wind turbines don’t need much wind to turn them. A gentle breeze (around three to five meters per second) is enough.

Bioenergy and waste  


Bioenergy and landfill gas are the sources of a third of our renewable energy although they’re lesser-known sources classed as renewable by the government. Bioenergy includes generation from Anaerobic digestion  Animal biomass Energy from waste Plant biomass Sewage gas.

Biomass can be sourced from any living substance as well as from materials such as biodegradable waste, food waste, and animal manure. Biomass can be burnt in thermal power and heat generation. It can also be used in the anaerobic digestion process, making a biogas that can be burnt in electricity or heat generation. This gas can also be refined to become methane and injected into the gas grid.

The UK Government has committed to reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. To achieve this, elements of the UK energy system must deliver negative emissions – that is to say, they must remove from the atmosphere more carbon than they emit. Biomass production and consumption, especially when combined with Carbon Capture and Storage, offer a credible route for the UK to deliver negative emissions. Low-cost routes to 80% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions foresee around 130 TWh per year of energy being delivered from bioenergy sources. This equates to approximately 10% of total UK energy demand in 2050. 

Hydroelectric power

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Hydroelectric power is a well-established technology in the UK. The flow of water is used to turn turbines to generate electricity. There are different types of hydropower including those using the natural flow of the river or dam storage schemes.

Marine and wave technologies use the energy in the ocean to produce electricity. The marine and wave industries in the UK are at an early stage but are growing due to several innovative designs. Marine technologies are expected to make a significant contribution to renewable power generation after 2020.

Hydropower includes: 

  • Run-of-river Water in a river or canal is channeled continuously to spin a turbine 
  • Storage Water is stored in a reservoir using a dam, and released to spin a turbine and generate electricity 
  • Pumped storage Water is cycled between an upper and lower reservoir using pumps powered by surplus energy from the system. Water is released into the lower reservoir to generate electricity.  

All of these involve water spinning a turbine to activate a generator and produce electricity.

Solar energy 

Around 5% of electricity generated in the UK in 2020 came from the sun using solar panels. This doesn't include individual solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on people's homes, so the proportion of solar electricity is likely to be higher. 

Solar panels use special PV (photovoltaic) cells to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. 

They can generate electricity as long as it’s light but the stronger the sunlight, the better they will work. 

Most of the UK's solar farms are in England.

If you’re looking for expert advice for your new build home for more efficient energy, Get in touch with us. Visit Property Contractors 247 and get expert advice.

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