It’s a well known fact that if we don’t reduce our carbon emissions, the impact on our planet could be irreversible. One of the small ways in which you could make a difference involves switching to green energy or even creating your own. Below, you can find out more information about what green energy is, how it works and how much the UK currently produces.
What is green energy?
Green energy, also known as renewable energy, describes the way in which electricity is collected using natural resources. Most of the electricity created in the world (around 65 per cent) comes from the burning of fossil fuels. However, this produces lots of carbon dioxide which we now know contributes to global warming and climate change. These fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, are non-renewable, meaning they will run out eventually. However, renewable or green energy is created from natural sources that will always be around no matter how much we use, such as sunlight and wind. Producing energy in this way also creates much less carbon dioxide than other methods, making it greener and cleaner.
What are the green energy sources?
There are a number of green ways that electricity can be created. The most widely used are solar power and wind energy and these are generally collected via solar panels or wind turbines.
Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular for homes as well as businesses. They can be installed on the roof of your home and use sunlight to heat water or create electricity. Although the initial installation cost and purchase of the panels can be a substantial outlay, they should be seen as a long term investment, as they can save you money each month on your energy bills. For example, your boiler may not use as much gas to heat your water if the solar panels have partially done this instead. Likewise, your home may draw less energy from the grid if a small amount has been created by the panels. They work even in winter, so may be a good option for your home or business all year round.
Electricity can be also generated using turbines that spin in the wind. It’s likely that you’ve seen these located across the UK, however, much smaller versions can be installed to create electricity for your home. These work particularly well in our country due to the windy weather and cost less than solar panels.
Other less frequently used methods include:
- Hydroelectricity – energy is created from moving water
- Biomass – the burning of crops, manure or wood
- Geothermal – electricity is produced using natural heat from the earth.
How does green energy work?
Currently, most of the electricity that is created in the UK, whether it’s through the burning of fossil fuels or via green sources, goes to the National Grid (with the exception of private solar panels or wind turbines). So, for example, energy created from wind farms and through burning coal is all mixed together at the grid and then transported all over the UK.
You may have noticed that your energy supplier offers a green energy tariff. So how does this work if most of the UK’s electricity comes from the grid? If you request to switch to a green energy tariff, your energy supplier would need to look at the number of customers on such a tariff and work out how much electricity they use. This total would demonstrate how much energy they need to purchase from renewable sources. The more people that move onto a green tariff, the more green energy the National Grid will need to source and supply. This would ultimately force them to burn less fossil fuel and use more natural resources.
How much green energy does the UK produce?
In 2017, green energy made up just under 25 per cent of electricity generation in the UK. The rest of our electricity was generated using fossil fuels (around 51 per cent) and nuclear power (around 21 per cent).
However, during June, July and September of 2019, renewable energy sources created more electricity than fossil fuels for the first time since 1882. During this time, wind farms helped to create 39 per cent of the UK’s electricity while electricity from biomass plants and solar panels created just under 20 per cent. Gas-fired power came in at only 38 per cent. While this data only covers three months of 2019, it definitely shows how the UK is becoming greener and attempting to use more renewable energy to power our homes and businesses.
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