By Travis Benn - (4 min read)
There are over 500 landfill sites dotted around the UK, and the majority of them – more than 450 – produce renewable energy through landfill gas technology installed on site. Although the site itself will be owned by a waste management firm or local council, the equipment belongs to an energy company, which leases a part of the site for 20-25 years, generates electricity from the gas, and earns an income from exporting the gas to the National Grid.
Steady on: Clean power progress for the utilities industry
By Travis Benn – (4 min read)
The utilities industry is one of the biggest consumers of energy and needs to make a drastic shift if we are to globally turn the tide on climate change. Thankfully the industry is making big strides in addressing the issue and has contributed to record breaking renewable energy production figures. For 90 hours and 45 minutes over Easter weekend the UK went coal-free, setting a new record. Though fossil fuels remain the dominant source of energy supply in the UK — 80 per cent in 2017 — they are actually at a record low according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The future of energy generation worldwide is in renewables, and the utilities industry is on the frontline of implementing new technology and policy, while ensuring security of supply and customer price. Companies like energy supplier Bulb have emerged in the market offering 100 per cent renewable electricity as standard and carbon neutral gas. Birmingham-based Tonik Energy, another renewable supplier, also offers solar and other products for customers looking to generate a portion of their energy. These smaller companies are setting higher standards.
As the government debates the effects of climate change, goals for energy consumption, and decarbonisation, it’s important to consider the industry’s progress thus far. The power sector has enacted some of the most significant early progress on mitigating climate change, especially given its status as one of the larger sources of carbon emissions.
In 2008 the UK passed its Climate Change Act targeting an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (from 1990 levels). In 2017 emissions had reduced by 42 per cent—marking the halfway point in roughly 10 years’ time. The success, among other factors, has led to discussions of setting even more ambitious target and an independent advisory panel is presenting a report this week on whether the 2050 goal should change to net-zero. This has wide support across the UK and parliament.
Looking specifically to policy on how we power the UK, in 2009 the Renewable Energy Directive set a target of 15 per cent renewables for all energy consumption by 2020. At that time renewable consumption was less than four per cent. Going even further, the water industry set a voluntary goal to generate 20 per cent renewables by 2020.
Water companies are accomplishing this in several ways. For example, SES Water in Surrey relies on more than 200,000 kilowatt hours each year from solar panels at its sites, and has also switched to purchasing only 100 per cent renewable electricity for all its treatment works, pumping stations and offices. For companies with wastewater there are additional options. Thames Water generates nearly 20 per cent of its electricity through biogas (anaerobic digestion of sewer sludge) and that amount increases nearly every year. Similarly, 10 per cent of South West Water’s energy comes from renewable energy which includes biogas production.
As result, combined with increases in wind power and other sources, in 2017 UK energy consumption was 10.2 per cent renewables. The trajectory of the last decade shows the 15 per cent goal is within reach. And because the directive includes all consumption—including transportation—the results are even more encouraging for the utilities industry, with renewable electricity generation increasing year on year.
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