Last time we looked at the remarkable rise in solar, wind and other renewables in Spain, while their electricity from nuclear, gas and especially coal contracted from 2008 to 2009. UK electricity generation is much more dependent on gas (43% compared with Spain’s 29%) and coal (32 % compared with Spain’s 12%)1, and much less based on renewables (5.5% compared with Spain’s 39%). See digest of UK energy statistics
The question for those of us wanting a 100% renewable energy mix is how to ramp up renewables in the UK. Most British people tend to think of renewables as small scale and for local consumption. This will be true for a small percentage, but for large cities with high power needs with relatively poor wind, solar or other renewable energy sources to hand, like most UK cities, the main power source will be more distant renewables. In the extreme some of our electricity needs will probably be met with Saharan Solar, but much more will come from closer to home.
The UK has the best wind, tide and wave resource in Europe. Wind is the one most people know about, but wave and tide are sadly less developed so far, but have huge potential. Northern Scotland is the epicentre of UK energy potential, for all three, wind, wave and tide, so it is fitting that the excellent EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre, see their website, http://www.emec.org.uk/index.asp ) is based at Stromness in Orkney. They are currently testing a number of wave and tidal flow devices at a couple of sites in the Orkneys. This is all relatively small scale so far, but seems to me to be something that may well be ramped-up over the coming years. How long it will be before we see wave and tide showing-up as sizeable percentages of UK energy sources is hard to tell. In the 1970’s the UK had a team working on wave power at Edinburgh University, but tragically their funding was cut and so much of the last 35 years was wasted. Let’s just hope we have more sense this time and give EMEC all the resources they need to help transform the potential into reality.