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

Demand more renewables

We can now see a future where almost all our electricity in the UK comes from climate-friendly energy sources like the wind, wave and sun.

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.

It's now cheaper to build and run wind and solar energy than it is gas.

We need the government to get behind ambitious action on climate, like switching from fossil fuels to renewable sources. It won't just improve our health and reduce our impact on the planet, it'll also help reduce fuel poverty and boost the UK economy through the creation of thousands of green energy jobs. 

Tremendous renewable energy potential in England

Our research shows England has the potential to generate 13 times more renewable energy than we currently do from onshore wind and solar. 

The UK would not only have the potential to easily meet its own energy needs, but it could also become a green energy superpower exporting clean, cheap, green electricity to other countries. 

But shockingly, new onshore wind farms are restricted in England. Learn more about our renewable energy potential and how to take action to lift the onshore wind restrictions in England.

Wind turbines

What's wrong with fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas contribute to climate breakdown by heating the atmosphere, causing extreme weather to devastate communities. Just look at how flooding in Yorkshire is impacting people's livelihoods, and how drought has driven displacement across East Africa. 

The UK 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 net zero emissions by 2050. 

To achieve that goal, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and source 75% of our electricity from clean energy by 2030. 

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 car park with car submerged after flooding in York, 2020.

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, and solar costs have dropped globally by 90% since 2009. In fact, 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.


What happens if the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow?

Thanks to advanced weather forecasting, we now know how much they'll produce, from a day in advance 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. 

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's 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.

Photo of solar array and wind turbine in countryside