Renewable energy is energy that is generated from natural processes that are continuously replenished. This includes sunlight, geothermal heat, wind, tides, water, and various forms of biomass. This energy cannot be exhausted and is constantly renewed.
The government has set a target to produce 15% of the UK's energy from renewable energy sources by 2020 and cut the country's carbon emissions by 34% by 2020.
Producing your own renewable energy
To ensure you get the most out of your renewable technology, make your home as energy-efficient as possible before you start. Learn about roof and loft, cavity and solid wall insulation, and how best to insulate your home and make savings by visiting the Energy Saving Trust website:
Small-scale energy production is called micro-generation and refers to systems under 50kW for electricity or 45kW in the case of heat. It typically takes the form of solar energy, wind energy, or biomass.
The government currently offers incentives to individuals who generate their own electricity and heat, with the Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI):
The Feed in Tariff
The FiT offers three financial benefits which can help offset the initial installation costs of technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines:
The Generation Tariff: you earn a fixed income for every kilowatt hour of electricity you generate whether you use it yourself in your property or export it to the grid.
The Export Tariff: you earn an additional fixed income for every kilowatt hour of electricity you sell back to the grid.
Energy bill savings: generating electricity to power your appliances means you don't have to buy as much or any electricity from your energy supplier.
The Renewable Heat Incentive
If you install eligible technologies such as biomass burners and heat pumps you could receive quarterly payments for seven years for using clean, green renewable heat.
Use the Energy Saving Trust’s renewable selector to help you choose the most appropriate renewable energy technology for your home.
Use the Microgeneration Certification Scheme website to find certified installers in your area.
Remember, you may need to obtain planning permission before installing renewable technologies.
Free solar panels or ‘rent a roof schemes’
These schemes are run by companies which offer to lease your roof for 20-25 years and install and maintain solar PV panels on it. In exchange you do not have to find any cash up front for the panels and you benefit from the free electricity produced by the system. The company however receives both the generation and export tariffs.
Green Energy Tariffs
A number energy suppliers offer 'green' electricity tariffs. These seek to support renewable energy. Opting for a green tariff will not necessarily mean that all the electricity you buy is from renewable sources, so it is therefore important that you compare the ‘fuel mix’ to see what percentage of the energy supply is from a renewable source.
Community-led action can often tackle challenging issues around energy, with community groups well placed to understand their local areas and to bring people together with common purpose. The Department of Climate Change has produced a variety of resources for people looking for information about developing community renewable energy projects.