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Renewable Energy UK

Updated on April 12, 2015

A brief introduction

This page gives an overview and my opinion on the the UK renewable energy industry.

Kentish flats wind turbine.  Photo by phault and distributed under Creative Commons Attribution license version 2.0.
Kentish flats wind turbine. Photo by phault and distributed under Creative Commons Attribution license version 2.0.

Wind Energy in the UK

The UK wind energy industry is minor compared with some nations, yet it is still a considerable industry. According to the British Wind Energy Association, in February 2007 the UK broke through the 2GW installed barrier, although it is now above 3GW. Despite having some of the best wind resource in Europe, the installed capcity is less than many other European countries. This is due to both financial support mechanisms being less generous for wind in the UK, and more importantly the large opoosition to new wind installations within the UK. However, the UK does have more offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world, and this is probably due to the increased ease with which it is possible to get planning permission for such schemes. A promotional video for the first large offshore windfarm in the UK is shown above.

Wave energy in the UK

 The UK is at the forefront of the wave energy industry worldwide, perhaps unsurprisingly given the size of the resource.  Many of the largest wave power devices manufacturers are based in the UK, including the company who make the Pelamis, the first wave energy device to be commercially deployed.  The UK has two of the most advanced wave energy development sites in the world at either end of the country.  The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney specialises in the testing of prototype devices, and the planned Wave Hub in Cornwall will deal with the commercial testing of a number of devices.

Solar thermal in the UK

The UK market for solar thermal is at present very small in relation to many other countries, with only approximately 90,000 household installations at present. However, as part of the government targets for greater use of renewable energy within the UK, there are aims to increase this value to 7 million by 2020.

Tidal power

The UK has some of the best tidal resources in the world, including the Severn estuary. It has been estimated that renewable energy generated this way could meet a considerable portion of the UK energy demand, with a Severn barrage alone being able to produce 5% of UK electricty. In addition the UK is in the lead of tidal stream technologies, such as Marine Current Turbine's (see video right).

Current UK Renewable Energy Policy

As things currently stand there is little direct financial assistance from the Uk government to increase the uptake of renewable energy in the UK. Some grants are available, but these are generally for small scale domestic renewable projects and are limited. There is also some funding for demonstration projects such as Wave Hub, and ideas still in the demonstration phase.

In many countries there is direct financial support for renewable electricity generators through tax-breaks and the like, or through the implementation of a feed in tariff. Tax breaks are used in the US, and feed-in tariffs are used in many European countries such as Germany and Spain so that generators of renewable electricity can sell their generation at a guaranteed premium over normal electricity. However in the UK, for a series of reasons a system known as Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are used instead.

Under the Renewables Obligation (RO) the suppliers of electricity are obliged to ensure that an ever increasing proportion of the electricity that they supply is produced using renewable means. For the year 2008/2009 the obligation is 9.1% increasing to 15.4% by 2015.


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