The EU has a directive in place for all member states to produce 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. But how exactly does the UK government plan to meet with these (not so far away) energy targets?
The green energy market is a lucrative business, with the plans government has put in to place to meet with the EU targets expecting to employ over half a million people in renewable energy by 2020.
To meet with the targets set by the EU directive the UK will be harnessing the benefits of nuclear power, carbon capture storage (CCS), improved energy efficiency and most importantly renewable energy sources.
But what exactly are we referring to when we say ‘renewable energy sources’? The Government has singled out 8 technologies that will be helping the UK to meet with the EU targets.
The first commercial UK onshore wind farm was built in Delabole, Cornwall in 1991. Onshore wind is currently the UKs largest source of renewable energy. Producing more than 4GW of wind power, the government is looking to raise this to around 13GW by 2020. Taking in to account the existing wind power production, wind turbines alone could contribute to a large part of our 2020 target.
Onshore wind farms not only significantly reduce CO2 production but have a positive impact for the community surrounding the developments. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has shown that ‘for each installed megawatt (MW), around £100,000 stays in the community for the lifetime of a project.’
Although there have been some negative reactions towards the onshore developments, opinion polls are consistently showing high levels of support.
According to the UK Governments ‘renewable energy roadmap’, ‘the UK is the global leader for offshore wind energy’. We have some of the best resources in Europe, boasting 20 offshore wind facilities and 4 of the largest wind farms in the world.
The UK currently produces 1.3GW of wind energy across 15 wind farms and has predicted a continued leading role by 2020, producing around 18GW. However, to reach such high potential the production costs of offshore wind farms is required to fall dramatically, minimising investment risk and ensuring ‘cost-effective grid investment’.
The growth of offshore wind farms will depend largely on the cost of this technology compared with other renewable energy options, and the need to increase our renewable resources beyond the 2020 targets.
Marine energy is a term which refers to the energy derived via both wave power – from surface waves, and tidal power – kinetic energy from large amounts of moving water. Offshore wind power is not classed as marine energy, as it produced by wind.
Marine energy is still in the very early stages of development, ‘with around 4MW of prototypes currently undergoing testing in the UK’ according to the renewable energy roadmap. However specific projects aren’t expected to be operational before 2020 due to the lead time for construction and anticipated high costs.
Before marine energy can be deployed on a commercial scale the management of the costs of research and development will need to be reviewed, along with the supply chain and infrastructure.
Biomass energy is possibly the first kind of energy to be harnessed by humans, derived from the burning of wood to make fire. Biomass energy is produced from living or recently living organisms, either used directly via combustion to produce heat or indirectly afterward by converting the materials in to forms of ‘biofuels’.
Currently the UK has around 2.5GW in operation but is looking to increase this by 9%, to 6GW by 2020. The growth of biomass energy depends largely on the sustainability and not creating increased deforestation or loss of habitats and its ability to actually deliver greenhouse gas savings.
Biomass heat is created by using either ‘agricultural, forest, urban and industrial residues and waste to produce heat and electricity’ (wikipedia.co.uk) this has less effect on the environment than burning fossil fuels, as the carbon produced via such methods is part of the natural carbon cycle.
‘In 2010 the UK generated 12.4 TWh of renewable heat from biomass, 12.1 TWh of this from biomass boilers and 0.3 TWh from Energy from Waste.’ – Renewable energy roadmap. Biomass heat doesn’t look like it’s set to play a large contribution the UKs renewable energy production by 2020, this is due to technology costs, fuel sustainability and investor confidence.
Ground Source & Air Source Pumps
Ground source and air source pumps work in the same way, by extracting heat from either the ground or the air to warm the home (via radiators, heating systems or water.) The ground and air pumps do require electricity to run off but the heat acquired from the ground, air or water is constantly being renewed naturally.
This isn’t currently high priority on the Governments renewable roadmap agenda due to the technology costs and licensing processes.
Renewable Energy in Transport
The UK Government has committed to meeting with renewable energy targets set for transport via various policies to support the use of biofuels.
The ‘Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation’ (RTFO) requires fossil fuel suppliers to commit to 5% of their fuels coming from renewable resources by 2014.
In addition the ‘Renewable Energy Directive’ (RED) has set targets for the whole of the UK to reach of target of 10% of its fuel from renewable energy by 2020.
The transport sector also has to comply with the ‘Fuel Quality Directive’, requiring a 6% reduction in greenhouse gases from transport fuels by 2020.