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Top three reasons why we use renewable energy sources?

16 November 2016

Renewable energy comes from a source that is not depleted when used, for example solar energy, from the sun or wind.  As more power came from solar panels than from coal power stations from April to September this year (Guardian, 2016), this blog gives three reasons why we are getting more and more of our energy from renewable energy sources.

  1. Non-renewable energy sources run out

We have traditionally got our energy from fossil fuels; coal, oil and natural gas.  These sources of energy cannot replenish themselves at the rate at which we use them and as such, will run out.  Estimates on when we fossil fuels will be depleted vary, especially as rates of consumption are so inconsistent.  One estimate is that we will run out of oil in 53 years, natural gas in 54 and coal in 110.  There are other sources of non-renewable energy such as nuclear that will eventually run out, although not as quickly as fossil fuels.  As we know these sources of energy will not last indefinitely, we cannot rely on them for future sources of our power and we will have to look at alternatives.  This is where renewable energy sources come in.

  1. The environmental impacts of fossil fuels

The impacts of fossil fuel use have been well documented.  Burning fossil fuels creates a number of harmful gases such as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide that have been identified as causes of climate change and acid rain respectively.  Due to the environmental impacts, new drivers such as the increases in the carbon floor price last year have caused major coal power plants to close.  Additionally, stricter controls on air pollution standards have meant expensive upgrades that have closed down other power stations.  Although renewable energy sources do have environmental impacts (that vary depending on the source), the impacts aren’t as severe.

  1. Consistency of supply

In order to ensure consistent supply of energy in the UK, we have a very complex and ever changing mix of energy sources.  This includes combinations of fossil fuels, renewable and other non-renewable sources.  The main change in the energy we consume in the UK has been the rapid decline in the use of coal and related fuels.  In 2015, renewable energy made up 24.7% of the overall energy generated in the UK, a record high.  Correspondingly, energy from higher carbon emitting sources fell, contributing to a 4% fall in the UK’s annual carbon dioxide emissions.  Supplying energy from a variety of sources helps to ensure that supplies will continue even if one source fails or does not contribute as much as was forecast.

Although the high contribution of solar energy to the UK grid will not continue through the year, due to seasonal variation, trends show that renewable energy is an important contributor to the energy mix of the UK.  There are many advantages to renewable energy sources.  They will not run out, they rarely create significant quantities of greenhouse gases and they help ensure variety and consistency of energy supply in the UK.  While there can be some drawbacks to renewable energy use, we can expect renewable sources to continue to supply more and more energy into the future.

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