2020 marked a turning point in the generation of the UK’s electricity. For the first time in UK history, electricity generated through renewable sources has overtaken its fossil fuel counterparts. Yet, this is just the start as the government has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Government subsidies aimed at reaching this such as FiT scheme (Feed in tariffs) and the Smart Export Guarantee scheme (SEG) have undoubtedly helped drive the shift towards green energy, however, they are not alone. Another vital component in the quest for sustainable energy has been innovation.
In 2019, researchers from the University of Sheffield announced a novel type of solar cell with a surface embossed with microscopic grooves with various electrical contacts, which they claim will reduce manufacturing costs and improve electrical conversion efficiency. An Oxford-based team has invented a new type of material that can be laid over silicon solar cells and has shown record efficiency. These types of novel solutions have played a major part in the rise of the renewable energy sector.
According to estimates, a total of 975MWp (Megawatt peak) has been installed in the UK in the two years since the FiT ended and was replaced by SEG. Furthermore, as Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted; the number of installations has increased dramatically. Renewables are expected to have an even better year next year, with capacity additions on track to hit a new high of approximately 10%.
Now, what about wind? The UK, produced more wind-generated electricity than any other G20 country in 2020, making up 24.2% of total electricity generation. This is more than four times the global average of 6%, propelling the UK to the top of the rankings ahead of Germany, further evidence that the UK can be the ‘Saudi Arabia of Wind’
Continuing to reduce our carbon footprint in years to come is absolutely essential, and this necessitates innovation within the UK accelerating if the net zero emissions target is to be achieved.