Why is renewable energy important?

Why is renewable energy important?

By: Ryan Jay

16 Apr 2021

At Shell Energy, renewable electricity is important to us. It comes as standard on all of our tariffs for all of our customers, and for good reason.

Think about every time you switch on the TV, or boil the kettle, or even charge your phone. Each little action that uses energy around your home is taking power from the grid, and the grid is powered by all sorts of energy generators across the country. There was good news in 2020 – more of Britain’s electricity system was powered by renewable energy than ever before -  which is good progress towards a net zero electricity grid. But there’s still lots of work to be done to increase the amount of renewable energy available to use. 

The Paris Agreement sent a signal around the world: society needs to act on climate change. Shell supports the most ambitious goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and has set a target to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, or sooner, in step with society. That means that we’re reducing emissions from our operations, and from the fuels and other energy products we sell to our customers.

Increasing the amount of available renewable energy is a key way to reduce emissions which it’s important for our planet’s future, as well as ours. It can replace some of our reliance on energy generated from fuels that emit carbon dioxide, meaning the electricity we use has fewer associated emissions.

As far as the nuts and bolts go, renewable energy is important because it’s sustainable. That means, in practice, it can never run out. As populations grow and technologies advance (think electrification of heating and certain modes of transport - increasingly cars and buses), renewable energy can help match the demand for energy and therefore play an important role in enabling the world’s growth. 

What are the different types of renewable energy?

There are a few different renewable energy sources, including some niche ones. Here in the UK, the majority of our renewable power generation comes from three sources: wind, solar and biomass. So, to keep things simple, let’s take a look at each.

Wind turbines use huge blades to generate energy. They’re connected to a generator which, as they move, converts the kinetic energy into electricity. This can then feed into the national grid via a transformer.

Solar energy harnesses the power of the sun through panels. They can be installed on the roof of your home and the power used locally, or they can be connected to a bigger network to feed energy into the grid. Solar panels are made of two sheets of silicon placed on top of each other with a slim gap between them. One sheet is positively charged, the other negatively charged. Together this causes a tension between the sheets which produces electricity.

Biomass energy is made from organic matter, including crops and waste products. The matter is ignited or broken down to produce gas or heat, which powers a turbine to produce electricity.

What makes these different to fossil fuels?

Energy from wind, solar and biomass is renewable – meaning it won’t run out. The sun and the wind aren’t going anywhere, and even biomass uses material that can be replenished quite easily. But generating energy through fossil fuels is finite, and when used has associated emissions.

Can we generate renewable energy locally?

In the UK, renewable energy is already having a significant impact in reducing emissions from electricity generation. At Shell Energy, all the energy our customers use is matched with UK-based renewable generation sources through the Government-backed Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGOs) certificates. That guarantees that for every unit of electricity used, a unit of renewable electricity goes into the grid.

But you might be wondering what the future of renewable energy looks like - wind turbines standing tall off the coast, and fields of solar panels? The answer is that there will likely be a mix of large and small scale renewable power generation.

Last year, Shell Energy Europe Limited announced that it had secured a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for 20% of the power to be produced by the first two phases of Dogger Bank, the world’s largest offshore wind farm off the north-east coast of England, to supply customers in the UK.

But renewable energy production can also be smaller scale, and closer to home too.

Solar panels on rooftops are becoming more common across the country, and the good news is that installation costs are falling. While still fairly costly - about £6,000 for your average house – this is markedly lower than the average of £20,000 at the beginning of the last decade. As technology develops, costs will hopefully continue to fall.

That’s important, because if more homes and businesses are self-sufficient in their energy use, it could reduce demand on our national grid.

If you have solar PV panels at home, or you’re planning to install them, using a home battery to store the clean electricity generated by your panels can help you to maximise the amount of renewable energy you use at home. Our Solar Storage tariff can help you reduce your electricity bills throughout the year, lower your household’s carbon footprint and contribute to driving the UK’s clean energy transition.

What can we do to reduce carbon emissions now?  

Shell Energy customers already get 100% renewable electricity as standard, no matter what tariff they choose. At Shell Energy, we believe everyone in Britain should be able to choose 100% renewable electricity for their home.

As well as supplying our customers with renewable electricity, we also contribute to nature-based solutions to reduce carbon emissions. On behalf of every customer, we make an annual contribution to UN-approved conservation and reforestation schemes that protect rainforest and woodland across the globe.

If our customers wish to go further, they can. With our carbon neutral Go Further tariffs, we’ll offset the carbon dioxide emissions from the production, distribution and consumption of gas as well as any residual emissions that come from the production and distribution of renewable electricity.

To find out more about our renewables offering, you can visit our dedicated page.