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Report: Renewables could provide 85% of UK's energy by 2030

Report: Renewables could provide 85% of UK's energy by 2030

Report: Renewables could provide 85% of UK's energy by 2030

Given the right support by government and industry, the UK could get to a point where 85 per cent of its energy comes from renewable sources within the next decade and a half.

This is according to the grassroots campaign group Demand Energy Equality, which published a Greenpeace-sponsored study entitled 2030 Energy Scenarios yesterday (September 21st).

The report's authors, Dr Daniel Quiggin and Max Wakefield, looked at 11 years' worth of hourly weather data and examined what changes would need to be made to the UK's energy infrastructure in order to meet expected demand over an equivalent period in the future from 85 per cent renewable sources.

These could include wind farms, utility-scale and rooftop-mounted solar arrays, and tidal power plants.

Demand Energy Equality also assumed that more and more Britons will begin to rely on electricity for non-traditional uses over the next decade and a half, including heating their homes and powering their cars - trends that will substantially increase the burden on the national grid.

They determined that the UK needs to take the following four steps to meet the 85 per cent target by 2030:

Use less energy

In order for the UK power grid to cope with rising demand as Britons switch to electric cars and electric heating, the country needs to cut the amount of energy used to heat homes by more than half, the report found.

This isn't impossible - the government has suggested it could happen by 2050 - but will require a dramatic change in course in policy to meet the 2030 target and involve "a revolution in home insulation", said Greenpeace in a supporting blog post.

"Ironically if that [switch to electric cars and electing heating] didn't happen, it would make it easier to power the UK with renewables, but it would also mean emissions would be higher," the blog continued.

Build more wind and solar farms

Demand Energy Equality claimed that in order to meet the 85 per cent target by 2030, only a modest increase in on-shore renewable sources of 47 per cent is strictly necessary.

Off-shore, however, it said the country will need to create twice as many wind farms as currently exist or are due to be built. This will allow for the UK to draw 55 GW of its power from off-shore wind farms - most of its expected capacity at the target date.

Upgrade the UK's gas plants

The scenario described in the report assumes that Britain will maintain some of its gas plants for backup power, but upgrade them to "combine power generation with industrial or district heating". This will ensure that any heat created by those plants is recycled to keep homes and business premises at a healthy temperature without additional cost.

Use smart tech

Finally, Demand Energy Equality noted the potential of new technology to help the UK meet its renewable energy goals. Smart meters, batteries and demand-side management tools - such as smart fridges - are all technologies that exist today but aren't widely used. Their increased adoption over the next decade and a half could help Britain avoid building "whole new power plants", Greenpeace said.

It concluded: "Essentially, what this report shows with unprecedented accuracy is that, contrary to popular belief, renewables can keep the lights on."

 

Posted by William Rodriguez

Image courtesy of Thinkstock