Renewable energy for your home or business
According to a Greenpeace report, 85% of British power could come from renewable sources by 2030.
While renewable energies are often in the news, it may not always be clear what they are, how they work, or what the different renewable energy businesses can offer.
Luckily, we can shed some light on all this for you. This page explores renewable energies and some of the ways you can use renewable power to reduce your carbon footprint, and keep your utility bills down.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is, as the name suggests, energy from a renewable source. That means that the resources used to create it naturally replenish themselves, with minimal impact on the environment. So for example, wind and solar power are two common sources of renewable energy.
There are two main ways to access renewable energy. The first is to invest in technologies for your home or workplace, such as solar panels or thermal heating systems. However, utility companies can also supply you with renewable energy if you don’t want to have these installed.
How can I produce my own renewable electricity?
The most common way to produce renewable electricity is with roof-mounted solar panels. These are known as ‘solar photovoltaic panels’ (or ‘PV panels’).
PV panels harvest energy from the sun, and convert it directly into electricity that you can use to power your home or business. As such, solar power is one of the cheapest electricity resources available.
Of course, you need to invest in the panels in the first place. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a 4kWp solar PV system – which can generate 75-100% of the electricity used by the average household – costs between £5,000 and £8,000. That may sound expensive, but in the long run, a PV system could well keep your energy prices down. It can also reduce your carbon footprint, which to some people is also important.
Because PV panels only work during the day, you will need to supplement your energy with mains electricity at night. If you have an Economy 7 tariff, which offers reduced night-time electricity rates, you could potentially do this quite cost-efficiency. Do your price comparison research carefully, as any savings will depend on your usage patterns. Economy 7 might not be right for everybody.
Recently, some renewable energy businesses have begun to offer energy storage technology, which holds the electrical charge from your PV panels until it’s needed. While the home batteries required are still new to the market, and can therefore be quite expensive, they’re worth considering. Using one to supplement a PV system could mean you don’t have to rely solely on the mains power supply at night.
Can I reduce my gas bill by using renewable energy?
Potentially, yes. Another type of solar panel uses sunlight to heat your water, which could help cut your gas bills.
OK, so we know what you’re thinking – Britain isn’t exactly the Costa del Sol when it comes to warm weather! It’s true that thermal heating systems won’t provide you with hot water all year round, but they may still offer long-term savings on your energy bills.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, a typical solar heating system costs between £3,000 and £5,000. While you’ll need your conventional boiler to top up your heating – particularly in winter – solar thermal panels could be a relatively affordable renewable heating system.
Like solar PV panels, solar heating is also a great way reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.
Can I also access renewable electricity from energy providers?
Absolutely. UK energy companies must produce a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. This is called the ‘Renewables Obligation’, and is overseen by the UK utilities regulator, Ofgem.
Luckily for the gas and electricity providers – and for us – we’re surrounded by renewable energy. We live on a windy island, and a single wind turbine can generate enough electricity to power upwards of 300 homes. This is partly why wind power is becoming so common in the UK. If you live in part of the country where it’s frequently windy, you could even consider installing a domestic wind turbine at your home.
In addition to wind, some of the major energy suppliers generate much of their electricity using nuclear power. This is much cleaner than burning fossil fuels, because it cuts gas and coal emissions.
Why not compare energy providers to find out who offers the greenest and cheapest electricity?
Can I really save money with renewable energy?
As we’ve seen, domestic systems like solar panels, thermal heating and wind turbines come with installation costs. However, once they’re in, they certainly have the potential to save you money over the long term.
But if you’d prefer not to install a costly system, you can use comparethemarket.com to compare energy prices from renewable energy sources from the different energy providers.
Click the button now to compare energy suppliers, and see if you can find an energy-saving deal that works for you.