Unfortunately, with current technology, renewable sources of energy are costly to develop and many of them – like wind and solar – depend on the weather. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the UK could meet its energy requirements solely with renewable energy – without a huge increase in our household energy bills.
Right now, renewables meet around 5% of the UK’s total energy needs (including electricity, heating and transport).1 Natural gas, by contrast, accounts for around 80% of the UK’s domestic and business heating needs2, with 83% of homes heated by this energy resource in 20133
The Government has committed to preventing new unabated coal generating stations being built in the UK and has also taken measures to limit coal plant emissions of oxides of sulphur and nitrogen under the requirements of EU air quality Directives. The EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), will come into effect in January 2016. It tightens emissions limits on fossil fuel power station, particularly nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Professor Richard Selley from Imperial College London said: “Many forms of renewable energy such as solar, wind and the batteries for hybrid cars etc. all use rare earth minerals. 80% of the World’s supply comes from northern Mongolia from two huge opencast mines that can be seen from space.4 The minerals are mined, refined and shipped all around the world. This is not very ‘green’. Some of the elements used in renewables, such as cadmium, are so toxic that when no longer used, have to be disposed of in a manner akin to nuclear waste disposal. It is also important to note that 80% of the UK’s homes have access to gas for cooking and heating. To switch to using electricity generated by renewable energy sources would necessitate reconfiguring the National Power Grid at massive expense.”
1 DECC, DUKES 2014, Chapter 6 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337684/chapter_6.pdf (“Progress has been made against the UK’s 15 per cent target introduced in the 2009 EU Renewable Directive. Using the methodology set out in the Directive, provisional calculations show that 5.2 per cent of energy consumption in 2013 came from renewable sources; this is up from 4.2 per cent in 2012.”)