One day in late March, during a sunny weekend, something spectacular happened. Solar power broke a new record. The demand for daytime electricity in UK homes fell to night times levels – thanks to solar panels in roofs and fields. Thanks to the sunshine, solar power created six times more electricity than coal-fired power stations that day.
Renewables are now fundamental to the UK’s electricity system, accounting for a quarter of the country’s power during 2015. Sometimes this comes from unlikely places. Gwynedd in north Wales topped last year’s league tables as the county installing the most solar.
But for many of us the revolution of small scale energy technologies doesn’t feel that accessible.
This is because, as Green Alliance puts it: “The future is already here. It is just not evenly distributed.” Our energy system remains dominated by the wholesale electricity market and large scale energy technologies.
But over the next three years it is likely you’ll become part of the revolution as consumers and businesses defect from the grid, using solar, wind power, smart-demand response systems and electric vehicles (EVs). EV batteries are a big part of the story here. According to Green Alliance by 2025 increasingly low-cost batteries will store enough energy to keep UK lights on for seven hours at a time. In the US, Tesla Solar promises the most affordable solar roof tiles yet (at $12.58 per sq ft).
Within three years it will make such economic sense that many businesses (Ikea, already generating 53% of energy from renewables, plans to be a net exporter of solar and wind by 2020) and consumers will turn from passive customers to energy creators. Embrace the jolt, it will be huge.
It’s a good time to take a sobering look at the Alaskan tundra – an area of permafrost that has acted as a storehouse for heat-trapping gases, storing carbon that is thousands of years old. But research shows the tundra turning from a storehouse to net emitter of carbon dioxide and methane far ahead of schedule. The fear is that this landscape now represents the beginning of a vicious warming cycle.
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