That’s one of the big questions the nation faces right now – and from the looks it, with renewable energy projects cropping up all over the UK, the potential for rapid growth is strong.
The emphasis on cutting carbon emissions and ramping up the UK’s green credentials is hardly a secret: the government has targets to meet and there are EU goals and industry calls for investment to boot.
But I wonder if the country will capitalise on its potential to become a world leader. We may be a dominant force when it comes to offshore wind – but surely that’s to be expected from an island with our infrastructural and financial assets.
Keep it fresh – look beyond offshore wind turbines
I believe we should have one eye on continuing to build up our vast arrays of turbines and another on fresh initiatives. It strikes me there are some genuinely exciting examples to point to right now.
Take the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon initiative. This is a plan to invest £650 million on harnessing power from the ebb and flow of the tide.
Developers say the lagoon would be the first of its type anywhere in the world, able to supply Swansea’s entire domestic electricity needs and run for more than 120 years.
While the project is still very much in its infancy it’s generating a huge amount of interest. It’s easy to understand why.
The company says it will save an estimated 216,000 tonnes of CO2 a year – as much as taking 81,000 cars off the UK’s roads every year and could provide 3,600 construction jobs.
The lagoon’s appeal notches up even further if you think about similar projects it could inspire in other areas of the UK coastline.
Obviously this is all speculation – much depends on the developers getting financial backing, not to mention approval from the relevant authorities. But early signs are undeniably encouraging. With plans for the facility to be operational by 2017, the ambition is clearly there. Watch this space.
Digest this – a new UK-wide anaerobic digestion network
Elsewhere, keep an eye on an adventurous programme by Tamar Energy. They want to create a network of 40 anaerobic digestion (AD) power plants in the UK – and all by 2018.
With four stations set to become operational in 2014 and another 14 sites in various stages of development, the firm seems dedicated to meeting its ambitious target. If successful, their AD sites will produce enough electricity and gas to power more than 200,000 homes.
What’s more, with the plants using organic waste to generate renewable energy, Tamar’s project is an effective waste management solution for local authorities.
A renewables revolution – but is the backing there?
Notwithstanding the role private firms have to play in driving a potential renewables revolution in the UK, government support for the sector remains crucial.
With cutbacks on the agenda and austerity the theme of many a spending review, we’d be forgiven for concerns that clean energy firms may not get the backing they desire. Still, there are some promising signs.
Greg Barker, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, recently told the Intersolar Conference in Germany that the UK “has a reformed, robust and fully-financed support framework for renewables, set all the way to 2020 and beyond”.
In the latest Spending Review the Chancellor announced an extra £800 million worth of funding will be pumped into the Green Investment Bank.
Finally, the Scottish government recently opted to introduce new subsidies designed to make it less expensive to develop offshore wind farms: the backing is there to provide carbon-neutral businesses with a platform to build.
If the majority are dedicated to clean power and the UK continues to dedicate itself to renewables then the nation could well establish itself as a global giant in the green energy arena in the coming years. Imagine the economic benefits in store as the driver of that bandwagon.
Jonathan Elliott is the MD of Make It Cheaper, which helps small businesses save money on energy and other bills. If you would like to get a quote on your energy needs, please call 0800 158 5265.