Renewable Energy

In late 2019, the UK grid got more power from renewable energy sources than non-renewables like coal or gas for the first time. But this isn’t a new trend, since 2010 the UK has halved the amount of electricity generated from fossil fuels and with new government contracts to build thousands of additional wind turbines and solar panels now approved, we are at the dawn of a new renewable age in the UK.

There are lots of different ways to generate renewable electricity by taking advantage of the Earth’s natural resources, this could be Geothermal (using the heat generated from the Earth’s core to turn turbines that create electricity), Hydroelectricity (using the force a river/lake to turn turbines, most often found on dams), however in the UK most of our renewable energy comes from 3 main source:

–  Solar: By using something called a ‘photovoltaic panel’ we can convert natural sunlight into energy which can then be fed back into the national grid or stored onsite in batteries for later use. The great thing about solar is that it’s a fairly cheap compared to building dams or offshore wind turbine farms, it also has low upkeep costs plus they can be installed just about anywhere that receives a good amount of sunlight!

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–  Wind Power: Wind turbines produce energy when the large blades that make up the turbine spin, this then powers a generator within the main pillar that produces electricity. With the UK being an island, we are lucky to have plenty of space to install offshore windfarms around our coastlines. With six of the 10 highest-capacity offshore wind projects in the world, the UK has become one of the top countries for wind power generation.

–  Bioenergy: When organic material decomposes it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is around 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth. However, there are ways that we can capture this methane and use it to create power, preventing it from entering our atmosphere whilst also reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Recycling food waste is a great example of this, whenever your food waste bins are emptied by the council, the contents is then taken to a facility where the methane is captured and used to produce electricity.

solar farm chelmsford
Where does our 'green energy' come from?

When we burn oil, gas or coal, a harmful gas is released called carbon dioxide. The more carbon dioxide is in the air, the warmer our planet gets and the more messed-up our weather and natural habitats become. This is called the Greenhouse Effect and it is one of the main forces that is driving climate change.

Burning fossil fuels isn’t just bad for our planet though, it’s bad for our health too. All that carbon dioxide causes high levels of air pollution, particularly in cities where you have high levels of fossil fuel-based road transport and industrial activity. According to studies by the World Health Organisation, this pollution is responsible for millions of premature deaths and costs billions in medical bills every year.

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Putting climate change aside, fossil fuels are a finite resource. This means that as we continue to use more and more of them up, there will become less and less available. As a resource becomes limited the cost of acquiring it becomes higher and thus so does the price of using it to power our homes and our vehicles. This is another reason why so many are calling for a shift from fossil fuels to renewables, to make sure we’re prepared for the day when fossil fuel reserves start to run out.

crude oil refinery
Oil, Gas and Coal are not sustainable.

The simplest way to reduce how much carbon dioxide we each individually produce is to use less fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) and where we can, replace them with renewable energy. That could mean driving an electric vehicle, installing solar panels on our roofs, or opting for renewable energy sources when we choose our utility companies. However, these are all big (and expensive!) changes that we can’t all make. The good news is there are plenty of smaller things that we can all do to help make a big difference overall. Here’s just a few ideas:

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Choose electrical products as opposed to gas or coal: We’re saying you should replace your boiler and hob or throw away all the appliances you have in your home right now, but as they naturally break over time, try to replace them with the most electrically efficient products you can (look for A++ on labels).

Turn off standby appliances: On average, each household in the UK wastes £30 a year by leaving standby devices on. This doesn’t sound like much, but with 27.8 million homes in the UK, that’s over £800 million worth of wasted energy every year. Remember to turn off your devices off at the wall or if you can, invest in smart plugs that can be controlled via Wi-Fi.

Heat your home as economically as you can: The average UK home spends £752 per year on gas bills in the UK. This cost has been rising steadily since 2004 and isn’t expected to slow anytime soon. Try only running your heating when you’re in your home, turning your heating down just a little (for every degree Celsius cooler your home is, your heating bills will fall by about 10%) or invest in smart heating controls for your boiler and/or radiators.

street electric car charging
How can I do my bit?

The great thing about making more environmentally friendly choices around your home is that if we all make a few simple changes, collectively this makes a huge impact in tackling climate change. Plus making more eco-friendly choices often means we actually save money too, as you’re purposefully using the least amount of energy and resources possible.

Chelmsford City Council has pledged to make all its activities net-zero on carbon emissions by 2030. Find out more here.

solar panels on house roof chelmsford
Together we will make a difference.

If you don’t have the money or the ability to make the changes we talk about on this page, please don’t worry, the weight of the world is not on your shoulders. It’s important to point out that with all environmentally friendly choices that your best is always enough. This is not to say that we don’t all have a responsibility to make changes, but if your financial situation is your limiting factor then it’s okay that waste reduction and recycling is not your priority.