Renewable Energy Facts from Recent UK Data

As many sectors of the renewable-energy industry expand in the United Kingdom alongside an increased government focus on clean energy and climate-change initiatives, popular support for renewables in the country remains substantial. That’s one of the major messages of a survey on energy attitudes and behaviors conducted by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and summarized in a November 2013 report (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/254725/summary_wave_7_findings_decc_public_attitudes_tracker.pdf).

 

When it comes to renewable energy facts, seventy-six percent of survey participants expressed support for sourcing the country’s heating, fuel, and electrical requirements from renewables. This proportion is roughly equivalent to the 79 percent of respondents stating the same in a September 2012 round of the DECC public-tracking survey; furthermore, support for specific sources of renewable energy–offshore and onshore wind, biomass, wave and tidal, and solar–were also basically the same in the 2012 and 2013 data.

 

The DECC public-opinion-tracking survey was part of a series launched at the start of 2012, consisting specifically of one major and three minor surveys a year. The shorter questionnaires are meant to assess views on certain topics that the agency expects may be dynamic or seasonal in nature. This most recent round of data stems from in-person interviews with adults 16 years or older, conducted in better than 2,000 UK households in late September 2013.

 

The results also suggest that UK residents are notably concerned about energy security. Eighty-four percent of respondents cited sharp future increases in energy prices as a cause for concern (nearly identical to the percentage saying so in September 2012); 63 percent worry the country’s stock of fossil fuels isn’t adequate to meet domestic demand (the proportion again basically unchanged from the year before). Meanwhile, concern about paying energy bills was in rough accord with prior surveys: 48 percent worry about paying their bills, and 34 percent report at least some consideration of changing energy suppliers within the next year. Compared with September 2012, slightly more respondents (13 percent) ranked their energy bills as more worrisome than other household payments.

 

There also appears to be little change in energy-saving practices from previous surveys. Some 28% of survey participants reported giving “a lot” of thought to home energy-efficiency, while nearly half of respondents give “a fair amount” of thought to the topic. Most people–78 percent–make an effort on occasion not to waste heat on rooms that aren’t in use, while 43 percent admit to leaving the heat on sometimes when they’re not home for a short spell.

 

The issue of nuclear energy continues to be a muddled one in the UK, the survey data suggests. Thirty-six percent of participants expressed support for generating electricity in the country from nuclear energy; 26 percent were opposed; and 36 percent were undecided on or indifferent to the notion.

 

The strong support for renewable energy documented in the survey coincides with significant expansion of the industry–and of government initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions and shoring up domestic energy security–over the past several years. Some renewable energy facts can be gleaned from the 2013 edition of the DECC’s Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics (DUKES) font=Times New Roman]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/65850/DUKES_2013_Chapter_6.pdf[/font. That data shows electricity generation and capacity from renewable-energy sources both increased (by roughly one-fifth and one-quarter, respectively) from 2011 to 2012. Generation and capacity from wind power (both offshore and onshore) rose by 26 percent and 37 percent, respectively, and generation from bioenergy made a 15-percent leap. While there was a decline in the proportion of transport powered by renewable biofuels, renewable energy sourced more of the UK’s electricity and heat in 2012 than the previous year: Renewables accounted for 11.3 percent of the country’s electricity generation and 15 percent of heat generation.

 

To provide a bit of background and context for all these statistics, here are a few more basic renewable energy facts. The UK has some formidable resources when it comes to renewables, including some of the greatest potential for wind, wave, and tidal power of any country in the world. According to estimates (http://eeru.open.ac.uk/natta/natta-guide.html) provided by the Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment (NATTA), onshore wind farms could conceivably generate some 20 percent of the country’s electricity, while offshore turbines might meet as much as half the annual demand. The potential for offshore wave energy as well as producing power from coastal tides and tidal streams is also significant. Solar energy and rendering fuel from biomass crops–which the Department of Trade and Industry has estimated could conceivably provide half the UK’s electricity requirements by 2025–round out some of the other major possibilities.

Sam Jones, the author, has been researching renewable energy facts for a recent work project and found there have been some incredible advances in the last few years.

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