As the coal supply generated from a few large national plants continues to fall, we ask how can we harness different renewable energy sources to create a future whereby our energy is supplied by more local renewable sources.
A move towards local energy
With the majority of the UK’s power being generated by large, inefficient fossil generators, we are losing on average 50% of energy due to wasted heat. By creating a network of smaller, renewable power plants in close proximity to urban areas, wasted energy could be used to heat local homes and local businesses.
The close proximity of homes and businesses to local power suppliers also has the added benefit that less energy is lost in transit as it travels down power lines.
The current standards within the energy sector were developed primarily for the Oil and Gas sector and designed for a very different world. As a result, in many cases industry standards for renewables are stifling opportunities to innovate and move towards a local, renewable energy model.
The wind energy sector is a great example of an area of the industry that has managed to stimulate innovation and investment despite operating against a backdrop of mismatched regulations.
The renewable energy sector continues to be boosted by government grants and tax incentives.
Onshore wind is on the way to becoming the cheapest form of energy generation, as such allowing permission to build onshore wind farms in Scotland and Wales is a must. With continued innovation being made towards engineering processes, the costs of production and supply are likely to fall.
Although it has high awareness as a renewable energy source, Solar Energy development has been slow. There is a big opportunity for the acceleration of development and disruption through innovation in this area. The barriers to entry in solar are high, this is because the largest opportunity for energy generation is in the sunniest parts of the country.
As our existing power grid is centralised (around large coal plants) instead of localised, this means the grid infrastructure does not necessarily align geographically with where the opportunities for solar plants are. There is a clear need to upgrade the grid network to enable solar power generation.
Offshore wind turbines continue to boom, with the Danish company DONG building a large wind farm in the North Sea without any governmental subsidy. The launch of the world’s first floating wind turbines off the Scottish coast is an encouraging sign that the UK and Europe are leading the way in this area.
As a country we are not searching for a grid completely powered by 100% solar or 100% wind, instead, we are looking for a future that is powered by a balanced set of innovative power generation technologies that are distributed locally across the country.
Although there are still barriers to innovation within the energy sector, the opportunities for renewable energy both in the UK and abroad are vast. New and innovative technologies are exploring progressive ways of harnessing renewable power, increasing efficiency through connectivity and the internet of energy, and reducing costs. The future is one whereby anyone can both generate and trade their own energy.