Thursday, May 2, 2013
Most of us are aware on some level that the future of energy will come down to renewable resources - sun, wind and water. But how do we get from here to that picture perfect planet, where humans happily exist using only environmentally friendly, limitless resources? In our lifetimes - what does the future of energy look like?
At the moment the vast majority of the country - nae, the world - is dependent on fossil fuels. Oil, coal and natural gas are still used in abundance in many areas of modern life. Forming hundreds of millions of years ago, people have got used to treating these natural fossil fuels like an infinite resource. But now they're running out. And it's serious.
And that’s not our only problem. The burning of these fossil fuels is also contributing to the destruction of the Earth's atmosphere and ultimately our planet. In fact, since the start of the Industrial Revolution, there has been a 40 per cent increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
The UK government has made a commitment to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent before the year 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). So throughout the course of our lifetimes, we can expect some big changes.
The centre point of this change is, of course, renewable technology. Solar panels, wind turbines, biomass heating systems, hydro power and heat pumps are all becoming more and more common. But they're expensive, and still far outnumbered by traditional methods of energy generation.
A number of government initiatives are already in place to try and encourage the uptake of renewable technology in homes and businesses across the country, such as the Green Deal and the Renewable Heat Incentive. These initiatives offer financial support in the form of loans or payments to people installing various types of renewable energy. And although these incentives are working to a certain extent and making renewables slowly becoming more commonplace, many still have doubts - and one of the biggest is the undeniable fact that these technologies alone are not yet enough to provide for all our energy needs.
Despite our continued reliance on certain traditional methods of energy generation, the UK must forge ahead with the closure of coal-fired power stations if it's going to meet its climate targets. However, this could leave our resources dwindling, with an ever-closing gap between our generation demand and capacity.
In the long-term, focus will move towards new-build nuclear plants and extensive offshore wind generation areas, which are expected to become increasingly important as onshore wind sites become more limited. But for now, according to a recent report published by Carbon Connect, plants should be switched to run on biomass or gas to reduce emissions in the first instance. This is where a large amount of responsibility falls to major energy suppliers like npower to invest in new power stations across the country, working alongside government to fund the future of energy in the UK.
This means for now, we are most likely to continue to see rising costs in energy. However, working together, consumers, energy suppliers and the government can help shift attitudes, make renewable and energy efficient technologies a part of the present and ultimately, help bring Britain closer to a clean, green future.
Mike Johnson is a freelance writer working for a marketing agency. This post has been written for an energy supplier npower.