The Supply And Demand Of UK Energy Environmental Sciences Essay
The energy sources can be split into three categories: fossil fuels, renewable sources, and nuclear power. To develop a better understanding about each source it is essential to discuss all of them separately.
1.1.1. Fossil fuels. They are called "fossil fuels" because they have been formed from the organic remains of prehistoric plants and animals. Although there are many different types of fossil fuels, three are especially important: coal, petroleum (oil), and natural gas. The theory behind fossil fuels is quite simple - burning of coal, natural gas, and oil releases energy stored in the fuel as heat. The released energy is then used to generate electricity.
Coal is currently the cheapest fuel in terms of production. According to The Coal Authority, there are 15 active underground coal mines and 36 active surface mining sites in the UK, making it a total of 51. Together they produce 16.7 million tones of coal output (year 2009/2010, The Coal Authority, see Appendix 1).
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As well as being the cheapest option of fuel it is also the most polluting. "Coal is an extremely dirty source of power, and imposes huge costs on people's health, the environment and the economy," said Keith Allott, head of WWF-UK's climate change programme (www.sciencedaily.com). Firstly, getting coal from its source (the earth's crust) is harmful and polluting to the landscape. Secondly, coal's burning releases a poisonous cocktail of gases into the environment. Carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and small airborne particles of coal venture into the air and water supply (www.associatedcontent.com).
The UK is the largest producer oil and natural gas in the EU. However, after years of being a net exporter of both fuels, the country became a net importer o natural gas in 2004. The Government estimates also predict that the country will become a net importer of oil in the near future. Production from the UK oil and natural gas fields peaked in late 1990s and has declined steadily over the past several years due to an increase in demand for energy also because discovery of new reserves has not kept pace with the maturation of existing fields (www.doe.gov).
Natural gas accounts for over 40% of electricity generation in the UK while oil is heavily used by the industries and transport sector.
At this moment, United Kingdom is highly dependant on fossil fuels.
Figure 1: Fuel used for UK electricity generation on an output basis in 2007
Source: Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES)
1.1.2. Renewable Energy Sources.
Renewable energy is the energy obtained from sources that are essentially inexhaustible. Renewable sources of energy include wind, solar, biomass, hydro and geothermal energy (www.business.qld.gov.au).
Renewable energy became extremely popular when the effects of fossil fuels to the environment and contribution to climate change became evident. Their popularity is constantly rising, especially in countries concerned about the environment.
Wind energy is the most popular type of renewable energy in the UK. It is generated when the wind rotates a turbine's blades which drive a generator to produce electricity.
According to BWEA, there are 260 operational wind farms (12 of which are offshore) in the UK generating a total of 4,491.15 MW of electricity. There also are 23 onshore and 3 offshore wind farms under construction. Consented projects are to build another 189 onshore wind farms and 9 offshore wind farms (www.bwea.com).
Solar energy is a photovoltaic effect which happens when photo cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. This source of energy is not as popular in the UK as wind energy. However, it is quite common to use the sun for heating the water pipes. Painting the thin pipes black and putting them in a 'greenhouse' type insulator can heat the water supply and therefore reduce the cost of using electricity to heat it. Photovoltaic cells can also be used as roof tiles. They cover the roof of the building and take advantage of the sun light coming from the sun. This is trapped by the cell and turned into electricity (www.bbc.co.uk).
Biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms. In the context of biomass for energy this is often used to mean plant based material, but biomass can equally apply to both animal and vegetable derived material. Five basic categories of the material are: virgin wood, energy corps, agricultural residues, food waste and industrial waste and co-products (www.biomassenergycentre.org.uk). Biomass can be used on a domestic or industrial scale.Â For a biomass power plant, the chipped, shredded and dried fuel is fed into a boiler or gasifier, from where the gas is collected and used to produce electricity and heat.Â Biomass can also be used at a more basic level to produce heat for the home - this is done most efficiently using a wood burning stove which can also be an attractive feature in any home.Â It is possible with larger stoves to use a back boiler to provide all of the water heating and central heating for a house.Â Alternatively, a biomass boiler can be used for the same purpose (www.sundancerenewables.org.uk).
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There are many examples of energy crop/wood waste heating systems in Britain:
In Ely, Cambridgeshire, a 31MW straw burning plant, the biggest and most effective plant in the world, was commissioned recently.
A 350kW wood-fired boiler was installed at Weobley School in 1997.Â Using locally grown wood, it heats the school itself as well as the secondary school on the adjoining site.
The National Botanic Garden of Wales and Singleton Park Botanic Gardens in Swansea are heated using energy crops/wood waste.
An increasing number of farms are using straw-fires boilers for on site heating requirements in buildings and polytunnels.
The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, North Wales, are currently undertaking a project to build a Welsh Institute for Sustainable Education, which will include an innovative biomass combined heat and power micro turbine system linked to the district heating system and grid.
Hydro energy or hydroelectric energy is generated by using electricity generators to extract energy from moving water (natural or manmade). Hydroelectric energy can be used in two ways: first way is by building large reservoirs and dams (barriers build across a waterway) to trap water and control its flow; second way is by allowing water to run machinery as it flows from a high reservoir to a low one (www.eon-uk.com). Some facts about hydroelectric power in the UK:
There are seven 50MW hydroelectric power schemes in the UK
These plants need to be build near large lakes, reservoirs that are high above sea level or where a lot of water can be dammed
Hydro energy supplies 1.2% of the UK's electricity
Geothermal energy is the heat contained and produced by the heating of the earth in two different ways. The more powerful geothermal energy comes from the core of the earth, where the temperature reaches 4000 degrees Celsius. The second source of geothermal energy is a result of the sun rays beating down on the land surface.
A good and proven method to extract geothermal energy from the sun is through using geothermal heat pumps. It is a very sufficient and environmentally friendly way of heating the water (www.clean-energy-ideas.com).
1.2. Energy Demand and Supply
The appetite for energy is growing every day. UK, being the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the EU, is still constrained to import fossil fuels in order to satisfy all energy needs.
According to a study by the consultant Logica CMG, in only eight years, demand for energy could outstrip supply by 23% at peak times (information as of 2007, www.timesonline.co.uk). The loss to the economy could be around £108 billion each year.
The scale of the challenge is huge. By 2015, Britain's generating capacity could be cut by a third as ageing coal and nuclear power stations are closed. Britain is also moving from being self-sufficient in oil and gas as North Sea production started to decline. In 2005, the UK became a net importer of gas. By 2020 imports could account for 80% to 90% of British gas needs (www.business.timesonline.co.uk).
According to the White Paper, the UK faces two main security of supply challenges:
Increasing reliance on imports of oil and gas in the world where demand is rising and energy is becoming more politicised
Requirement of substantial private sector investment over the coming two decades in gas infrastructure, power stations and electricity networks
(White Paper, www.berr.gov.uk)
Despite a lot of criticism, UK which currently generates 20% of electricity from nuclear power stations will continue to use nuclear power (except the old nuclear plants that are going to be closed down) as the risk of not meeting the energy demand is even greater.
1.3. The Production and Import of Energy
While the UK has benefited from indigenous reserves of oil and gas for
many years, as the North Sea matures, the country will become increasingly
dependent on imported energy. By 2010, gas imports could be meeting up
to a third or more of the UK's total annual gas demand, potentially rising to
around 80% by 2020 on the basis of existing policies. The UK is also already a net importer of oil, and by 2020 imports could be meeting up to around 75%
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of the UK's coal demand.
Therefore UK has to make sure that the market for fossil fuels, supported by appropriate Government policies, continues to ensure reliable supplies of these fuels at competitive prices to people and businesses.
The starting point for addressing these risks must be to reduce country's overall energy use through greater energy efficiency.
Beyond that the Government must also support the development and deployment of non fossil fuel energy within the UK to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and to diversify the range of energy sources available to the UK (White Paper, www.berr.gov.uk)
Chapter 2: Risks involved with Fossil Fuels
There are a number of risks involved with fossil fuels. First of all, there is a fact that the fossil fuels are depleting in a rapid rate and are harder to retrieve. With demand for energy growing fast, there is a possibility that not only the United Kingdom but the whole World might be facing an energy crisis in the near future. Energy price volatility will (and already has) become inevitable.
The second problem with fossil fuels is the harm they cause for the environment. The negative effects are already showing as the climate is changing and the earth is warming up.
Another problem lies in the development of the economy. The country needs crude oil for generating the electricity and for transport. When the price of oil goes up, so do the prices of transport, household goods, and all basic products.
2.1. Oil Price Volatility
Oil prices have never been stable since nineteen seventies. Due to some crucial historic, financial, and political events, the price of crude oil has seen some sharp fluctuation over the years. The most consequential fact about it is that when the price of oil goes up so do the prices of energy and even primary commodities.
With oil reserves declining in the North Sea, UK is forced to import oil from
Figure 2: Crude Oil Prices, 1947-2009
2.2. Reserves of Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels take millions of years to form. They form by a natural geological process from organisms that died hundreds of millions of years ago.
Today's modern and industrialised society is aching for energy, and most of the energy is still obtained from fossil fuels. It is therefore obvious that if the consumption continues at this or even higher rate, there is a risk of fossil fuels being exhausted (www.typesofenergy.co.uk).
However, there is a disagreement between scientists over the reserves of fossil fuels. For example, Bjorn Lomborg in The Sceptical Environmentalist insists that "we are not headed for a major energy crisis". Furthermore, he claims that "there is plenty of energy" (MacKay, D., 2009).
David Goodstein, a physicist, on the other hand, says that the energy crisis is coming soon. In fact, as soon as 2015 or 2025. He predicts that the crisis will start when the energy supply will not be able to meet the demand (MacKay, D., 2009).
UK Government's former chief scientist, Sir David King agrees with D. Goodstein. In the article published by The Telegraph very recently he claims that oil reserves are 'exaggerated by one third' which means they are actually much lower than we know. Also a team of scientists and researchers from Oxford University assert that official figures are overstated because OPEC countries over-reported reserves in the 1980s in order to gain a competitive advantage for a global market share (www.telegraph.co.uk).
United Kingdom is not an exception. The production of coal has decreased significantly since around 1950s.
Table 3: The Production of Coal, 1700-2025 (predicted)
According to Dr Fred Starr of Claverton Energy Research Group, "UK coal reserves are now given as somewhere between 400-800 million of tonnes. Not the billions that everyone supposes. If the UK energy system was totally dependent on coal, as it used to be, these stocks would last 2-4 years." (www.claverton-energy.com).
Moreover, UK's oil reserves in the North Sea are also decreasing. Since the 1970s it has been a source of wealth for the British economy. It also meant that the country could cut its dependence on the Middle East oil. Despite the fact the area is one of the most challenging for oil exploration (severe wind gusts and 30 meters high waves) the North Sea has been a key source of non-OPEC oil production over the last 20 years (www.iags.org).
While oil demand is said to increase in coming years, North Sea output peaked in 1999 and has been in decline ever since.
However, oil producers believe it is still possible to extract 37bn barrels of oil from the North Sea. The problem now is a declining investment. With current investment only some 11bn barrels could be extracted form the UK continental shelf. Malcolm Webb, chief executive of UK Oil & Gas, said to The Telegraph in July 2009 that "last year, we had the credit crunch, next year we are looking at an energy crunch" (www.telegraph.co.uk).
Talking about UK gas reserves, the situation is relatively better compared to oil and coal. The reserves are quite high with the potential for growth (please see Appendix 2).
Table 4: UK Gas Reserves, 1979-2008
However, there is one unsolved issue concerning gas - its storage. Colder than normal winter last year caused record withdrawals of natural gas from UK storage and resulted in increased demand refilling storage facilities in spring and summer. Therefore, UK marketable gas supplies so a decrease of 17% on an annual basis.
Moreover, decline rate and colder weather have contributed to a noticeable growth in UK LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) imports and a decline in natural gas supplies sent from the UK to Continental Europe. This pattern is expected to continue (http://europe.theoildrum.com).
2.3. Environment and Climate Change
Climate change is blamed on several human activities, but the biggest contributor to climate change is the amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide emissions) released into atmosphere. Most of these gases come from burning fossil fuels.
How does climate change affect the UK?
In future, rainfall could significantly decrease in the summer (particularly in the south east) and significantly increase in the winter (particularly in the north west). Heavier winter rainfall can to become more frequent, causing more flooding.
The sea-level rise across the UK is projected to be between 20cm and 80cm by 2100. In the worst case scenario, rises of up to 1.9 meters are possible.
The summer heat wave experienced in 2003 resulted in over 2,000 extra deaths in the UK. Such an event is likely to become normal by the 2040s or the 2050s.
By the 2060s or 2070s, the intense temperatures of 2003 could become the average temperature in summer.
On account of the above mentioned facts it is absolutely clear that there is an urgent need to find other ways of satisfying the growing energy needs of the United Kingdom. Even if it is not possible to withdraw fossil fuels as a source of energy completely there are other options of procuring energy, e.g. Solar, wind or hydro power.
Talking about greenhouse gases, The UK is already making a significant progress. As the table below shows, the intensity of poisonous gas emissions is decreasing gradually since 1991.
Table 5: UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity, 1991-2007
Source: Office of National Statistics
Chapter 3: Energy Debate
Everybody agrees that there are a few problems in the world of energy today. Starting with climate change and finishing with possible long-term shortages and energy security. Something has to be done, but what?
Not only UK Government but the from many countries in the World are now starting to get serious about funding research into alternative energy sources, setting up power stations fuelled by renewable energy sources and encouraging the development of vehicles that run on alternative fuels.
However, there are still some open questions that are not answered or there is some disagreement going on about them.
3.1. UK Government's Position
UK Government is taking things very seriously. The country has actually nearly doubled the target of 12.5% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions agreed in Kyoto Protocol  (www.decc.gov.uk).
This Protocol was followed by Copenhagen Summit  in December 2009. Although it wasn't as successful as Kyoto Protocol, UK participation was a gesture of care and concernment.
UK Government has made few other steps towards sustainability. One of then is the White Paper. First introduced in February 2003 ("Energy White Paper: Our energy future - creating a low carbon economy") and later rewritten in 2007 ("Meeting the Energy Challenge, A White Paper on Energy", May 2007, BERR). The aim of this paper is to plan a strategy on how to save energy, develop cleaner energy supplies, and secure reliable energy supplies at prices set in competitive markets (A White Paper on Energy, www.berr.gov.uk).
The key elements of the strategy are:
Establish an international framework to tackle climate change. The idea behind is to stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Also to strengthen EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) in order to deliver a market price for carbon and to be the basis for the global carbon market. This should ensure the reduction of carbon emissions in the most cost-effective way.
Provide legally binding carbon targets for the whole UK economy, progressively reducing emissions. The aim is to cut down carbon dioxide emissions released into atmosphere by at least 60% by 2050, and by 26%-32% by 2020 against a 1990 baseline. This has to be achieved through both domestic and international action. The Government also has to set five-year carbon budgets, and place binding limits on compound greenhouse gasses emissions.
Make further progress in achieving fully competitive and transparent international markets. Effective markets will ensure that the world's natural resources are used in the most efficient way. Further liberalisation of EU energy markets is an important part of this.
Encourage more energy saving through better information, incentives and regulation. The Government is going to work on removing barriers that would affect cost-effective energy efficiency measures to rise.
Provide more support for low carbon technologies. As private sector alone might not be able to invest sufficiently in research, development, demonstration and deployment of new low carbon technologies, the Government needs to bring forward a global investment.
Ensure the right conditions for investment. The Government has to introduce a clear and stable regulatory regime, including for valuing carbon, to reduce uncertainty for business and help to ensure sufficient, timely investment. It also needs to improve the planning system and to provide better information and analysis of long-term energy market trends to inform energy purchasing and investment decisions.
(A White Paper on Energy, www.berr.gov.uk)
The last point summarises Government's role in encouraging businesses and industries to invest in renewable energy best. It is a fact that without help, information, incentives, and financial support small to medium sized businesses (possibly even large businesses) would probably not be able to invest the necessitated amount of effort and money needed to become more sustainable in terms of energy.
3.2. Nuclear Power?
According to Nuclear Industry Association, there are 23 nuclear power reactors in the UK, generating electricity at nine sites. The electricity supplied by nuclear power stations accounts for over one fifth of UK's electricity.
The industry contributes about £3.3 billion to UK Gross Domestic Product. It exports over £650 million goods and services each year. The nuclear industry is an important part of the UK's science and technology base.
A major positive thing about nuclear power is that it does not contribute to climate change as it doesn't produce carbon dioxide emissions.
But what about nuclear waste?
Nuclear waste is too dangerous to be exposed and can not be destroyed nor recycled. It has to be stored in special containers and placed in secure sites.
In the UK, around 120,000,000 m3 of nuclear waste is generated per year (www.world-nuclear.org). Compared to fossil fuels, it is very little. But barring in mind that this waste has to be stored and stays active for thousands of years, it suddenly looks like a huge amount.
Other concern is the safety of nuclear power stations. Even though UK's power stations are rated as of excellent security level, the world has seen some major disasters. For example, when on April 26, 1986 the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl power plant exploded in former U.S.S.R. causing the worst nuclear accident ever. The World Health Organisation found that the fallout from the explosion was incredibly far-reaching. For a time, radiation levels in Scotland, over 1400 miles away, were 10,000 times the norm. The consequences are felt to this day; there is an increased number of people suffering from cancer in surrounding areas and a mutation of plants (www.wagingpeace.org).
A lot of scientists are sceptical towards nuclear power. The main component of production of nuclear power is uranium, which is a radioactive metallic element, naturally occurring in most rocks, soil, and even ocean. Therefore it is a fossil fuel. Physicist David Goodstein, after warning about forthcoming oil crisis says that if all energy needs were to be switched to nuclear power, the oil crisis would simply be replaced by a nuclear crisis in around 20 years time, as uranium reserves also became depleted (McKay, JC, 2009).
However, in November 2009, the Government has approved 10 sites in England and Wales for new nuclear power stations. Most of them will be located where there are already plants (www.bbc.co.uk).
The Government is certain that without energy generated by nuclear power plants it will not be able to guarantee enough supply for growing demand as well as will not be able to meet its own targets of cutting down the carbon dioxide emissions how it is stated in A White Paper.
But environmental campaigners say it is an expensive and dirty option and the government could be open to legal challenges.
3.3. Clean Coal?
With coal being the most polluting type of fuel, it is difficult to take in such thing as 'clean coal'. However, the new technologies are being developed to prove that burning of coal can actually be clean.
Clean coal technology is referred to carbon capture and storage (sequestration) technology (CCS). This technology is said to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that are released while burning the coal. The technology works by pumping and storing emissions underground while integrated gasification combined cycle gasifies coal to reduce CO2 emissions.
Perhaps the most popular example of a coal-based plant using carbon capture technology is Vattenfall's Schwarze Pumpe plant in Germany. However, it has not yet been demonstrated that carbon stored underground will be able to stay there indefinitely (www.wikipedia.org).
In April 2009 UK Government gas given the go-ahead to new coal-fired power plants equipped with such new technologies. But on condition that it can prove it can reduce greenhouse emissions (www.bbc.co.uk).
Even environmental campaigners welcomed the move but said any new stations would still release more carbon than they stored.
On the other hand, Energy Secretary Ed Miliband says these new technologies changing the way of producing the power from coal would allow the UK "to lead the world" in the technology - and keep coal within the UK's energy mix without abandoning climate change commitments. He added that successful CCS development could cut carbon emissions from coal by 90% and that "there is no alternative to CCS if we are serious about fighting climate change and retaining a diverse mix of energy sources for our economy." (www.bbc.co.uk).
Nevertheless, some concerns were raised that billions of pounds of taxpayers' money was being spent on technology that remains unprovenâ€¦
The question stays open in the mean time. Is it really worth investing billions of pounds (let alone they are tax payers money) in a technology that has not been proven yet? Shouldn't the Government be more interested in investing in energy sources that are 100% emissions free? This question is yet to be answered in the near future.
3.4. The View of Society
UK is the country that is genuinely interested in its contribution to reducing carbon footprint and to secure energy supplies in the future. So are a lot of the individuals living in the UK; they get involved in environmental campaigns, recycle their waste, want the Government to act faster on switching to renewable energy, and express their concerns over climate change.
However, sometimes enthusiasm is taken over by completely opposite feelings. Let's take wind farms as an example. They are indeed a 100% environmentally friendly source of energy. As well as that, windmills are huge constructions that stand tall and wide to capture more wind and are very noticeable.
When the first wind farm was build in Delabole in Cornwall, an independent 'before and after' study indicated that 80% of the local people asked said it made no difference to their daily life, 44% approved and 40% approved strongly. In the 'before' study, 40% of local people interviewed thought it was going to be visually intrusive, but this fell to 29% after it was set up and running. Many expected there would be some noise problems beforehand but after it was running 80% of people felt the noise wasn't a problem (NATTA).
Even though the 'after' study showed improved numbers, there were still people (29%) that felt the view of the landscape was somehow destroyed by windmills. And some of the people (20%) found the noise was an issue.
Furthermore, there are websites like www.bhats.co.uk which agitate for 'saving the villages from industrial turbines' and environmentalists like James Lovelock, who says that "wind farms will devastate the countryside pointlessly" (www.bhats.co.uk).
At the same time, UK is a perfect place for wind farms. Scotland alone gets more wind than all of the Europe. The country could benefit by building more wind farms but it will not be able to do so if local residents will be against.
Chapter 4: Future Outlook of Energy in the UK
The future of energy in the UK is controversial. Critics say the country will be facing an energy gap in the near future while others insist that everything is and will be fine. But with demand for energy growing rapidly and with targets set by the Government are to be met, there is a question arising: how and what sources of energy will dominate in the future?
4.1. Prospects for Fossil Fuels
"Fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy source - there is no alternative"
John Loughhead, Executive Director of UK Energy Research Centre
According to the panel of 150 experts, despite expansion of renewable energy and the need of nuclear power, fossil fuels will remain the mainstay of energy supply in the UK up to the year 2050. The panel draw a conclusion:
Generating capacity shortfall of 7-16GW by 2015
Equivalent to about 20% of current capacity
Without need to restrain emissions, gap could be bridged easily
Fossil fuels will remain the dominant technology
Nuclear is proven and reliable, but building takes at least a decade - decision needed soon
Renewables could supply 40% of generation by 2050
This conclusion is not very optimistic nor is acceptable to environmentalists.
Even the White Paper states that fossil fuels like oil and coal will continue to play a key role in the energy system future. The Government therefore plans to maximise the economic recovery of the remaining reserves of oil and gas by boosting investment in the North Sea. It also plans to establish new infrastructure to the West of Shetland to enable additional gas and oil to be exploited.
However, fossil fuels are only one side of the medal. There is also a theory for the future of renewable energy.
4.2. Prospects for Renewable Energy
Renewable energy is playing a key role in reducing carbon emissions and achieving security of supply in the future. Furthermore, the target set by the Government is to achieve 20% of electricity generation from renewable energy by year 2020. It is not going to happen without Governments' intervention or investment. It actually all depends on how much effort is going to be put in making it happen.
In 2002, the Government introduced a mechanism called Renewables Obligation  (RO). RO has been successful in stimulating investment in renewable energy projects. It does this by placing an Obligation on licensed electricity suppliers to source an increasing proportion of their electricity sales from renewable sources or to pay a penalty (the buy-out price). The RO's aim is to provide a framework of financial incentives to invest in renewables with the long-term goal of supporting the transition of renewables into the mainstream of the UK's competitive electricity market. The level of the Obligation is currently set to increase in annual steps from 7.9% in 2007/08 to 15.4% by 2015, and to remain at that level until 2027 when the mechanism will end (White Paper, www.berr.go.uk).
However, according to greenpeace.org.uk, the targets of RO so far have been missed. Energy consultancy Oxera estimated that the RO in its current form will deliver only 8.1% of supply from renewables by 2010, 11.4% by 2015 and 11.5% by 2020 (as of 2007, www.greenpeace.org.uk).
Is the Government doing enough to support the growth of renewable energy sources?
The answer to that is probably no. Everyone agrees that it is a key source of energy in the future yet still more is being invested in oil exploitation of gas and oil from the North Sea or carbon capture and storage (which hasn't even been proven to be effective yet).
Therefore the prospects for renewable energy in the UK are a little blur. It does require some huge investments, but isn't energy future and security priceless?
4.3. Possible Solutions
There are quite a few solutions how the Government, businesses and individuals could contribute to managing the energy supply before the shortage appears. Possibly every single one has already been discussed in the past by different panels but still worth looking into.
Possible solution 1: speed limits on the roads could be lowered. Cars and other vehicles are known as being the worst polluters. Reducing the speed limit not only would improve the safety issue on the roads, it would also mean that less poisonous gasses are being released into atmosphere.
Possible solution 2: people should choose to drive more energy efficient cars. There is a difference between a Smart car with an engine of 0.7 liter and a Porsche 911 with an engine of 3.0 liters. If people chose to drive small-engine cars it would be beneficial to the environment and the roads but it would also mean smaller petrol bills for the driver.
Possible solution 3: increase in road taxes for cars with engines larger than 1.4 liters. Sometimes the only way to encourage people to do something is via legislation.
Possible solution 4: introduce an incentives scheme for buying a fuel efficient car.
Possible solution 5: Encourage the usage of public transport more. Buses are often running empty while the roads are full of cars. If more people used public transport, there wouldn't be as many cars on the roads.
Possible solution 6: build more energy efficient homes and equip the old ones with new energy efficient products, e.g. windows. Last winter being colder than usually has caused some serious issues concerning gas reserves in the UK. It would not be such a big problem if more houses in the UK were less dependent on countries reserves.
Possible solution 7: promote electrical vehicles. Not only should the Government promote electrical vehicles but also introduce some incentives for people buying them. These vehicles are five times more efficient compared to petrol powered ones and produce 0% of carbon emissions.
Possible solution 8: invest more in renewable energy sources. It has to start some day and there is not time to delay it. Not only to improve the quality of air but also to become more independent. It applies to all: the Government, businesses, and individuals.
The list of possible solutions could go on. But even if three of the above mentioned would be taken and looked at seriously and followed by corresponding actions, the situation would improve somewhat.
4.4. Why Should Businesses Invest in Renewable Energy?
Before considering the benefits involved with business switching to renewable energy it would perhaps be interesting to find out where should one start when thinking about such move.
First of all, in order to choose the most appropriate technologies, the business should identify and consider such factors as its current energy usage, overall consumption, and fluctuations in demand. It should also identify the areas where it would be possible to reduce energy usage. It is important to identify what energy mix would suite the business best are some technologies that can only produce either electricity or heat, while others can generate both (www.businesslink.gov.uk).
The benefits are significant. The main ones would include:
The reduction of contribution to climate change
Improved environmental credentials strengthen the brand. More and more customers, stakeholders and investors are showing an interest in dealing with businesses that are environmentally responsible
Exemption from paying the duty under the climate change levy 
Building relationships with businesses that have similar values
Stabilise energy costs. Renewable energy prices will stay stable whereas prices of fossil fuels are fluctuating
Future proofing. Renewable energy use will become more widespread with time. With legislation already placing targets for its use upon certain new developments, switching sooner rather than later would give the business early experience of renewable energy
It is essential to mention, that there is a financial help available for businesses which invest in renewable energy. A range of grants, loans and even awards introduced by the Government are available to help businesses, e.g. Applied Research Grant, Woodland Regeneration Grant, Business Commitment to the Environment (BCE) Environmental Leadership Award - SME Award, Green Business of the Year Award, Carbon Trust Interest-Free Loans, Energy Efficiency Loans, and many others (www.businesslink.gov.uk).
The above stated list of benefits is quite extensive. However, two of them really stand out. First one is that the money that company is going to be saving on energy bills in the future. That is because every business, first of all, is about making a profit. Second one is not being dependent on fossil fuels which prices are fluctuating constantly and, furthermore, fossil fuels are a major cause of climate change.
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