The British appetite for renewable energy

The UK is lagging behind the rest of Europe in adopting renewable energy sources for electricity production. However, a few key players in the most active areas of wind, solar and geothermal could by entering international markets sooner rather than later could avoid the risks associated with fickle government policies and subsidies.

Ted Sarmiento of Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, working alongside Alexander Brem of Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Frank Muehlmann VEND Consulting GmbH suggest in a report published in the International Journal of Technology Marketing, that the UK is at a critical point in the development of renewable energy. Solar, wind, wave, hydroelectric, bio-energy, geothermal are a diverse group of technologies that seek to use natural phenomena to generate a sustainable electricity supply by avoiding the climate change issues of burning fossil fuels and the purported safety and public perception issues of nuclear power. Policy and market forces could ensure that the UK can guarantee energy security, meet its climate change targets on carbon emissions and prevent energy prices for consumers and industry from rising much higher.

“The current situation in the energy industry is characterised by a worldwide increase in the demand for energy,” the team explains. “At the beginning of the 20th century, worldwide energy consumption was less than 1 terawatt (1 TW equals 1 trillion Watts), while currently demand sits at around 11 TW and it is expected to rise to 28 TW by 2050.” The quadrupling of world population during that period is the main driving force, that and the industrialisation of emerging markets such as China, India and South America, as well as increasing mechanisation and the advent of consumer electronics.

As population rises and energy demands go up, the limited supply of fossil fuels is likely to be depleted within decades, the demand for renewable energy sources is reaching a critical point.

European Commission proposals published in 2008, demand that the UK achieve a 15% share of renewable energies within its overall energy use by 2020, although the UK government’s own targets are aiming for 20% by this time. However, although growth in the sector has been fairly rapid, many observers doubt that the UK will reach its renewable energy targets by 2020 without major policy changes. The planning system, for instance, repeatedly hinders the development of wind power. Nevertheless, the team’s survey of the market and companies within it suggest that wind power will be the main growth area in the UK.

The researchers’ data confirms that all sectors of renewable energies will grow, but the dynamic sectors of wind, solar and geothermal energy represent the most sensible options economically speaking because there are many issues to address with regards hydroelectric power and bioenergy.

“Marketing of new technologies: the case of renewable energies in the UK” in Int. J. Technology Marketing, 2011, 6, 162-177