How does it work? What kinds are there? Can I make my own? Everything you wanted to know about renewable energy.
What is renewable energy?
Also referred to as green energy, renewable energy is generated from natural and renewable energy sources that can be replenished — as opposed to being generated by finite resources such as oil or coal.
Examples of renewable energy include solar energy, wind energy, water power (hydroelectricity) and biomass.
We call these green energy sources types of "renewable energy" because, unlike fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, green energy sources will not run out.
What kinds of renewable energy are there?
- Wind energy — Uk has many wind farms, both on and offshore. Read more about the pros and cons of wind energy here.
- Hydroenergy — Also called hydropower, this is a common renewble energy generation choice of green energy suppliers
- Solar energy — About 4 million homes in the UK have solar panels for their home. These panels convert light from the sun into electricity.Read more about solar panels here.
- Biomass — Whether this qualifies as a green energy source is debateable; the burning of natural resources such as wood produces carbon emissions. However, because materials such as wood are considered renewable, it qualifies as such.
Can I switch to a renewable energy tariff?
These days, many energy suppliers offer at least one "green" tariff, but what that means can be quite complicated.
There are three potential ways they offer renewable energy tariff:
- Energy match: Your energy supplier matches some or all of the electricity you use by producing renewable energy that they feed into the National Grid.
- Green investment: This means your supplier funds renewable energy infrastructure or projects. These days, most green suppliers do this in addition to the above.
- Carbon offset: Your supplier offsets the CO2 emissions from the energy you use by planting trees or investing in CO2 reducing projects.
No matter how a renewable tariff defines "green energy", the good news is, the more households that switch to a green energy deal, the more renewable energy gets generated or invested in.
How can I switch to a renewable electricity supplier or a green energy tariff?
These days finding and switching to a green energy plan is easier than ever.
Start a gas and electricity comparison and simply opt for the "green plans" filter.
Why do renewable energy plans cost more?
It used to be that opting to go green for your energy came at a premium. However, thanks to a more competitive and open energy market, there are many suppliers that can now offer renewable energy deals.
In fact, in many cases, green energy plans are some of the cheapest available.
Can I make my own renewable energy?
Yes! The small-scale production of renewable energy is called microgeneration and refers to systems under 50kW for electricity and 45kW in the case of heat. It typically takes the form of solar energy, wind energy, or biomass.
Thanks toFeed-in Tariffs (FiTs), microgeneration of renewable energy is becoming more popular in the UK.
Biodiesel is diesel fuel made from natural oils, such as rapeseed oil. It's usually mixed with normal diesel fuel before being used in cars.
Using biodiesel means we burn less fossil fuels, but growing biodiesel crops takes a lot of land, which arguably could be used for food production, and it increases the pesticides and fertilisers we use.
Biomass is organic matter like crops and manure, which can be burned to create renewable energy. Wood is a form of biomass fuel.
Your carbon footprint is a way of understanding your own impact on the environment. It's an estimate of the carbon dioxide generated from:
the energy (from fossil fuel sources) that you use in the home
the way you travel
making producing and transporting the products you buy
Using renewable energy like solar electricity will reduce your carbon footprint because it does not produce carbon dioxide.
Climate change (also called global warming) is a change in the Earth's climate because of the pollution created by humans - particularly the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced when we burn fossil fuels like oil and gas.
We can try to reduce climate change by using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.
Geothermal energy uses heat from inside the Earth's core to produce electricity or heat water or homes. This renewable energy source works well in volcanic areas where the heat from the earth's core comes close to the surface.
Hydroelectricity is renewable energy that comes from using the power of water, such as rivers and the sea.
Hydroelectric power plants usually involve damming rivers or putting barriers in the sea. Because of this, some people argue that this form of renewable energy is bad for the environment.
The National Grid is the UK's electricity transmission network. Energy companies feed electricity from non-renewable and renewable energy sources into the National Grid - and the energy you use is a mixture of all of it.
Nuclear energy generates electricity from the breakdown of radioactive materials, called nuclear fuels.
Many people argue that nuclear energy is renewable energy as it does not use fossil fuels directly. However, like fossil fuels, nuclear fuels will eventually run out.
Nuclear energy does not produce carbon dioxide, so it is sometimes considered to be a green form of energy. However, carbon emissions do occur during the mining and processing of the nuclear fuel, and nuclear energy produces nuclear waste, which is difficult to dispose of safely.