Wind of change

Wind of change for energy generation

Businesses have an important role to play in helping the country meet its commitment to become net zero by 2050. Increasingly, business to business buyers and consumers are looking for the companies they use to prioritise the environment and lead the way in the fight to stop climate change. As you plan for 2020 and beyond, buying renewable energy could be an important part of your corporate social responsibility strategy, is increasingly a pre-requisite in tenders and can help you earn the trust of new customers whilst maintaining your competitive advantage. It also seems likely that whatever result the general election brings, all parties are committed to some level of legislation forcing companies to adopt greener practices and policies. 

How energy has evolved since the 1970s

Back in the '70s coal was the primary source of energy generation in the UK, responsible for two-thirds of all electricity. In the 2010s, coal production decreased to one-third and by 2018, renewable energy sources had increased to a record 33% of all electricity generation. In 2019, for the first time, fossil fuels account for less than half of all electricity generated and coal has fallen to as low as 3% of electricity generation.

As part of the UK's commitment to decarbonise the electricity network, all coal-fired power plants are set to close by 2025, making increased investment in renewable energy sources necessary. Germany has taken it a step further with its Energiewende plan, which is on track to give up all nuclear power generation by 2022, in addition to transitioning to a low-carbon economy by focusing on renewable energy.

A breakdown of non-fossil fuel generation

In order for the UK to successfully transition to a carbon zero economy, it will require an increased investment in renewable energy sources from all sectors of the economy. Business can play a big role in propelling the UK into an emissions-free future. Here is a current break down of non-fossil fuel energy sources in the UK and the cons of investing in each.

  • Nuclear Energy: 20%

    Demand has shrunk as renewable sources have increased

    Mining and refining uranium ore and making reactor fuel require large amounts of energy

    Nuclear waste requires storage

    The risk of a nuclear disaster is a liability

  • Wind Energy (Offshore and Onshore): 17.4%
    o    Offshore Cons:

    Often needs to be built in hard to reach locations

    Can be susceptible to damage from very high winds

    o    Onshore Cons:

    Expensive to build and site

    Wind turbines can be aesthetically challenging

  • Tidal Energy: 1.5%

    Very expensive to build

    Environmental impacts on sea life are unknown

  • Biomass Energy: 10.7%

    Can take up large spaces for storage and site locations

    Some environmental impact from burning biomass

  • Solar Energy: 3.8%

    Energy collection is not as efficient during cloudy and rainy weather

    Upfront cost for setup

Next steps

In order for the UK to achieve its ambitious goals to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, businesses need to act now. By investing in renewable energy and collaborating with municipalities to offer sustainable solutions for the future, businesses can build trust with consumers and help communities adapt to the increased risks of flooding, fire, heat waves and the other impacts of climate change in the UK.