Renewable energy is the term used to describe energy flows that occur naturally and continuously in the environment, such as energy from crops, the sun, wind or waves, and is essentially inexhaustible. Extracting this energy as effectively as possible and converting it into electricity, heat or transport fuels are the key challenges facing the renewable energy sector.
Renewable energy can be produced through:
The UK Government has a binding EU commitment to supply 15 per cent of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. It promotes the use of renewable energy through a number of policies. The main ones are the Renewables Obligation for electricity and the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation for transport fuels. Renewable heat (eg generating heat by burning waste) and microgeneration (eg solar panels) are key areas that have yet to be fully explored.
Using renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels has a number of environmental benefits. These include decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and damage from acid rain.
However, building new energy infrastructure and growing crops for energy needs to be managed correctly. If they are in the wrong place or the supply chains are unsustainable, this could result in damaging consequences to the environment.
Natural England is already working with Government, planning authorities, farmers, developers and others to overcome these difficulties. Together, we will ensure that renewable energy generation has a place in the UK’s energy mix without harming the environment.