A woman next to a roof fitted with solar panels

Renewable energy in the UK How wind, wave and sun will power the UK

Why renewable energy sources are the future

We can now see a future where almost all our electricity comes from the wind, wave and sun.

Climate-friendly energy sources reliably powering the UK. And this could happen far faster than politicians believe.

We're already making progress. Since 2004 renewable energy in the UK has grown ten-fold, and 37% of electricity is now from renewable sources. What's more, Scotland produces 90% of electricity from renewable sources.

The technology is developing and costs are falling at lightning pace. It's now cheaper to build and run wind and solar than it is gas.

Renewable sources are popular and the switch will be good for us – improving our health and environment as well as boosting the UK economy.

Cyclist under a large solar panel in Barcelona's Forum Esplanade promenade
A wind turbine generates electricty in the shadow of Drax, Europe's biggest coal-fired power station

Why renewable energy?

We must act fast to stop burning coal, oil and gas – fossil fuels that heat the atmosphere.

Climate change is already devastating people's lives around the world.

The UK has pledged to prevent global warming from spiralling out of control – by signing the 2015 Paris Agreement. And it's legally bound by its own law to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

Around 75% of our electricity must come from clean energy sources by 2030. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

With new nuclear power very expensive, and new gas too polluting, there's only one major source of power we can turn to: renewables.

A wind turbine generates electricty in the shadow of Drax, Europe's biggest coal-fired power station
A large array of solar panels

What will the future energy grid look like?

The UK energy grid used to rely on a small number of power stations.

But increasingly, our electricity system is powered by renewables and is now much more diverse. So if something goes wrong with one part of the system, it is far less of a threat to our overall energy security.

In the future, most of our power, including that used to heat our homes and power our cars, will come from wind and solar power. And a smaller percentage from tidal, hydro and geothermal.

Our grid will become even smarter to match supply and demand – reducing costs while keeping our kettles boiling. Electric cars and batteries will stockpile electricity for us. We might also convert power into hydrogen gas for long-term storage.

A large array of solar panels
Solar PV instalation (for electricity) North London, UK, 2011.

Are renewable energy sources cost effective?

Shifting to renewable electricity will be good value for UK taxpayers.

The price of renewable energy is rapidly falling. Globally, solar costs have dropped 90% since 2009.

Wind and solar are now the cheapest sources of new electricity.

Even the price of offshore wind is plummeting in price, thanks to much bigger turbines. The cost of new offshore wind farms is expected to be lower than onshore wind by the mid 2030s.

Batteries – useful for energy storage – have also been tumbling in cost.

Learn about the costs of installing solar electricity and solar hot water for your home.

Solar PV instalation (for electricity) North London, UK, 2011.
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What happens to our energy supply when the sun doesn't shine and wind doesn't blow?

Wind and solar may be variable but they are also increasingly predictable.

Thanks to advanced weather forecasting, we now know how much they'll produce, from a day ahead to 5 minutes ahead. This means we can make other sources available for the times they won't be. Including extremely regular renewable energy, like tidal and hydropower.

In any case, no energy source runs 24 hours a day for a whole year.

Power stations come on and offline for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is to cope with a spike in demand for power – like when millions of kettles boil during a commercial break.

To balance these spikes, the UK largely relies on natural gas.

But in the future we'll see larger amounts of energy storage. Gadgets like batteries and electric vehicles will store surplus energy from renewables, and release it when required.

The more renewables there are – and the more diverse they are – the less back-up gas we need.

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Woman holding a turnip or parsnip in a vegetable garden, Yorkshire, UK

Switch to renewable energy

We work closely with Good Energy and Ecotricity because they are gold-standard green energy suppliers committed to ending the UK’s reliance on filthy fossil fuels.

Switching is easy. You can do it online or on the phone, all you need to do is provide your postcode and answer a few questions.

Once you’ve chosen your tariff and payment method, you can relax safe in the knowledge that your energy bills are helping in the transition to a clean energy future.

Woman holding a turnip or parsnip in a vegetable garden, Yorkshire, UK
Man installing solar panel

Ask your council to invest in renewables

The government must take urgent action to get the UK to "net zero" emissions. We propose six radical yet realistic solutions in our Climate Action Plan, including switching our power supply to renewables. We're also asking councils to tackle climate change, with a Climate Action Plan for councils. This supports local investment in green energy, energy efficiency and ditching new fossil fuel projects. Thousands of people are working alongside their councils to develop a local Climate Action Plans for their community. Will you join them?

Man installing solar panel