The UK could generate more than 80% of its electricity from wind, solar and tidal power within the next 15 years, a new study has revealed. Researchers at Greenpeace studied hourly weather data for 11 years in an attempt to dismiss the argument that lights couldn't be kept on if the switch to renewable energy is made.
The 2030 Energy Scenario report was published amid comments from the CEO of National Grid, Steve Holliday, who said using large power stations for baseload was "outdated". However, Chancellor George Osborne announced on Monday (21 September) that the UK would be increasing collaboration with China on the construction of nuclear plants, confirming a £2bn ($3.1bn) deal which will see China invest in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station.
Greenpeace has dismissed the government's arguments for the shift away from investing in renewable energies. Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist at Greenpeace, said the new research provides concrete evidence that it is possible to keep power systems working while also decarbonising the electricity system and that technology would be a key factor in making it a reality.
"For a long time the government and the fossil fuel industry have peddled the argument that renewables can't keep the lights on if the wind's not blowing," said Par. "This hasn't been based on evidence but on out-of-date instincts seemingly from staring out the window to see how windy it is."
He went on to state that using smart technology and reducing the demand for power is what will help the UK to make the switch to renewable forms of energy. The report looked at how smart meters, batteries and demand-side management can be used to reduce the demand for extra gas power stations. For example, smart fridges could turn down during a dark evening in winter, or grid-scale batteries could store excess renewable energy to be used if the wind power is lower on a particular day.
"It is hugely ambitious but definitely doable. And it will take the same kind of enthusiasm and financial support from the government, normally the sole preserve of the nuclear and fossil fuel industries," said Par.
UK drops off top 10 Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness index
Last week the UK dropped out of the top ten of the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index report, which ranks 40 countries based on their renewable energy investment and deployment. It is the first time that the UK has not been included in the top ten countries since the index was launched by EY 12 years ago.
EY attributed UK's fall to an influx of government policies aimed at reducing or removing forms of support for renewable energy projects.
"Investors are saying that the government has not set out a clear energy policy and don't see the UK delivering at lowest cost, based on actions taken so far," explained RenewableUK's deputy chief executive, Maf Smith.
The Conservative government has begun cutting subsidies for wind and solar schemes on the grounds of cost, with onshore wind farm subsidies coming to a stop by April 2016. Greenpeace's Doug Parr said that the Government is removing financial support for these industries "too early" and the UK will be missing out on the financial, security and environmental benefits that the industries could bring in.
"For people to benefit from costs being controlled in the future, the government needs to drop their archaic allegiance to polluting coal plants, and secretive and expensive new nuclear projects reliant on overseas governments," said Parr. "Instead the government should join the rest of us in the 21st century smart technological revolution that can deliver energy security and a clean renewables energy industry."