What should be the UK’s priorities in low-carbon energy?
In light of the UK’s stated goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, we asked Engineer readers what mode of low-carbon energy should be the country’s main focus.
Garnering nearly a third of all votes (32%), nuclear enegy was the clear favourite. Despite the difficuties currently plaguing nuclear new build, a signifcant proportion clearly see it – alongside the potential of nuclear fusion – as the UK’s best route to a low-carbon future. The next most popular choice (22%) was energy storage, vital to optimise the contribution of all renewables to the grid. Perhaps surpsingly, offshore wind was backed by just a fifth of repsondents. Wind (onshore and offshore) currently makes the largest contribution to the UK’s energy mix of all low-carbon sources, and its generation capacity is set to continue to grow significantly in the coming years as new offshore farms come online.
Further down the pecking order came marine power (12%), a source of energy with huge potential but which is releatively underdeveloped compared with other renewables like solar and hydro, both of which polled at just five per cent. The ‘none of the above’ option was chosen by four per cent of readers.
“Marine has so much to offer the UK,” wrote ekij in the comments. “The tides swirl around the UK such that there is always generation available somewhere around the country. If designed with a little planning there is no intermittency with tidal power the way there is with wind and solar. Where there is slack tide at one point, the tide is in full flow in another. This is a huge opportunity for the UK and it’s a terrible loss to see us focus elsewhere.”
Reader Alex commented: “For the future, it’s got to be nuclear and wind with storage. Nuclear has disappointed to date, but there is still a chance for next gen or small modular reactors. Solar may be great in southern Europe, but we need more electricity in the winter, when solar is next to useless.”
“Another option that is missing which doesn’t involve any research whatsoever, is low tech, low cost is fitting every building in the country with decent insulation,” said Mark Byrne. “Starting with social housing at no cost to the occupants. One of the biggest problems is stopping it turning into a financial feeding frenzy by the companies who are contracted to do the work.”
As ever, we welcome continued discussion of this matter. Readers should familiarise themselves with our guidelines for the content of comments before submitting, and bear in mind that all comments are moderated to ensure that discussion remains on topic.