Many decades ago, the UK wasn’t anywhere near as dependent on importing energy from around the world as it is today. It doesn’t even cross many consumers’ minds that the energy they’re using might have been sourced through controversial means like gas fracking and importing from politically and socially unstable parts of the globe. How many of us are aware of the alternative energy sources?
Because of how much we rely on other parts of the world, what happens when there is conflict in the country we’re importing from? Prices rise to unaffordable levels and the government seeks out other sources of the same energy rather than thinking of a more sustainable and reliable method.
In 2009, 38 million tonnes of coal was imported, as well as 54 million tonnes of oil and 39 million tonnes of gas. The figures speak for themselves. That amount of coal is nearly three quarters of the amount we use in total in the UK. Over 30% of the gas we use is from other countries and this can become 50% during the extremes of winter. As the North Sea is exploited, it won’t be long before a shortage of gas happens.
What can be done? What are the available alternative energy sources?
There are several very simple solutions. We receive almost half of all the wind that sweeps across Europe, and have the technology to provide solar power even when the sun isn’t showing. Also, the UK is an island. This means we have a huge amount of coastline which we can make use of, which is something many countries in Europe can’t boast. We also have multiple means by which we can make biogas, or ‘green gas’. We have loads of alternative energy sources sitting on our doorstep.
Up to a quarter of our electrical needs could be met by everybody putting solar panels on their roof. The potential for more than half of our electricity is huge if we were to also build more solar farms. On top of this, we could provide up to 20% of our electricity via tidal power. Unfortunately, today, there’s more pollution in the sea than there is sustainable energy sources.
But it’s green gas that has the most intriguing potential. Up to 50% of the UK’s gas needs could come from green gas sources. Many of these sources are currently considered purely as rubbish, such as the waste in landfill sites and food waste.
While finding different means of sourcing energy is a fantastic place to start, it’s not going to solve every issue. We need to be more conscious of how much we’re using and change our behaviour accordingly. But the more we make use of alternative energy sources, the more the UK can start becoming energy independent.
Image: Simon Bissontagsbiogasbiomassgreen energygreen gasrenewable energysolar panelssolar powersustainable energytidal powerwind power