Switching On: How Renewables Will Power the UK

26 May 2017
Friends of the Earth launch new report demonstrating how renewable energy could power Britain

“By 2030 renewables should be able to produce at least 75% of our electricity while maintaining system reliability” Alasdair Cameron, report author

With the cost of renewable energy falling, and advances in grid management and storage technology, the UK can reliably be supplied with the clean, affordable energy it needs, says a report from Friends of the Earth.

This shift to renewables is a transition happening globally, now accelerating at pace, leaving the oil and gas sector to manage their decline. With onshore wind and solar rapidly becoming the cheapest energy sources, and offshore wind costs falling quickly, these advances are too rapid for investors to ignore.

We already know that in 2016 renewables supplied a quarter of UK electricity, and that this was up from about 7% in 2010, so the trajectory is clear. 

The report released today, called Switching on: how renewables will power the UK, draws together evidence which shows that:

  • Wind and solar may be variable, but they are increasingly predictable, and combined with flexible backup, energy storage and smarter grids should be able to form the basis of a clean and affordable energy system
  • Integrating variable renewables like wind and solar will help reduce costs. Based on recent government figures by 2025, generating 50TWh of electricity from new wind or solar should be around £500m a year cheaper than from new gas generation, including balancing costs
  • Renewables can be the foundation of a secure energy system. The biggest risks to our energy supply are currently disruption at ageing fossil fuel and nuclear plants, and extreme weather events affecting the grid

Alasdair Cameron, report author and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said:

“It’s increasingly recognised that renewables like wind and solar are among the cheapest options for generating power in the UK, and it is also clear that they can be the foundation of a stable and reliable energy system. 

“If we get this right we should be able to provide at least three quarters of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030, decarbonising our power supply as well as driving down costs and maintaining reliability.”

The report concludes that renewable energy sources, combined with high levels of storage, demand side response and the ability to trade power across regions is the best way to decarbonise the UK’s electricity system.

If the next government can achieve that, renewables should be able to produce at least 75% of our electricity by 2030.

Alasdair Cameron concluded:

"This sector is where the smart money is going. With just weeks to go before a general election, it’s a good time to pressure candidates so that the next government reforms the energy market to give power to consumers and communities. 

“Electricity generation can be carbon free by 2030, we can fall off a cliff edge or we can lead the world.”

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