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Share of renewables in the UK electricity generating capacity has overtaken fossil fuels for the first time as it reached 42 GW

Renewable energy is derived from resources that are replenished on a human timescale; examples include sunlight, wind, rains, waves, tides, geothermal heat and biomass. Renewable energy is used in three main areas: electricity generation, air and water heating and cooling, and transportation. Renewables are also suited to provide off-grid energy solutions in rural and remote areas. The overall production and use of renewable energy usually produce minimal greenhouse gases and have the potential to significantly reduce air pollution compared to hydrocarbon alternatives. Deployment of renewable energy also has potential energy security benefits, with renewable resources spread over wide geographical areas.

In light of the current greenhouse gas-driven warming of the climate and the associated impacts, a global transition to low carbon energy is underway with renewable energy at the forefront. Related technologies are rapidly becoming more efficient and falling in costs; some renewable energy forms like solar PV and onshore wind that once depended heavily on government support are now at or approaching cost-parity with fossil fuel generation. Since most renewables produce electricity, increasing the share of renewable energy in the whole energy system can be achieved by electrifying the heat and transport sectors, in combination with increasing the proportion of electricity provided by renewables. Besides electrification, the transport sector can benefit from biofuels which can substitute for oil products. The heat sector can see further deployment of solar water heating, biomass-fuelled burners and direct geothermal heating. Renewable energy is expected to continue expanding its share in the energy mix, as costs come down, innovative technologies are commercialised, and environmental drivers strengthen. In the short term, the EU has a target for 20% of all electricity to be generated from renewables by 2020. However, to meet long-term climate and sustainability goals, renewable energy deployment must accelerate in all sectors, enabled by policy and markets.

You can find further information below about the technologies, costs and current developments within each of the seven major types of renewables:

For the latest news and articles on renewable energy read Energy World.

Learn more about renewables by reading our Energy Insights.

View upcoming consultations and policies on renewables on our Policy Milestones Calendar.

What's new?

‘Collapse’ in new German onshore wind threatens renewables targets

The growth of onshore wind energy is collapsing in Germany, according to trade association WindEurope, jeopardising both German and EU renewables targets in the process.Just 134 MW of new onshore wind was installed in Germany in the first quarter of this year – making it the country’s worst quarter ...

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New projects pair multiple renewables with storage

Large-scale battery storage is perhaps the most important enabling technology for the next phase of the energy transition – and utilities are taking note. Now, the first projects that pair two or more renewable technologies with storage are coming online, reports Andrew Williams.

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Carbon emissions still rising despite renewables growth – IEA

Energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by 1.7% last year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Global Energy & CO2 Status Report. The agency also found that demand for all fuels increased in 2018, with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70% of the growth for the second ...

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Renewable electricity generation hits record high in Scotland

The generation of renewable electricity in Scotland reached record levels last year, according to official statistics. Statistics published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) indicate an equivalent of 74.6% of gross electricity consumption was from renewable s...

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Energy Insight: Geopolitics and the renewable energy transition

The influence of energy on geopolitics has historically referred to the influence of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas. However, renewable energy sources are fast becoming a feasible alternative to fossil fuels, both economically and as a long-term sustainable solution to tackle climate chang...

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Events and training

YPN FutureTech: Power to the People

Join the debate and discover how technology is shaping the energy transition.

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Disruptions in Energy

The Energy Institute together with SGX is bringing you this thought leadership seminar on the energy value chain and the key disruptive trends. 

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The Future of Scotland's Energy Policy

Scotland’s energy policy is changing to reflect the different demands of Maximising Economic Recovery (MER) and the decarbonisation goals presented by the Paris Agreement.

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Melchett Lecture 2019

The Melchett Awards are among the most prestigious awards in the gift of the Energy Institute and are awarded to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the energy industry. Presentation of the Melchett Awards is followed by a lecture delivered by the Award recipient.

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L1: Certificate in Energy Management Essentials - September 2019

About: This introductory 5 day classroom course provides a comprehensive, practical overview of the fundamentals of energy management, equipping participants with all the essential knowledge and skills they need to save energy, reduce operational costs and carbon emissions, comply with legislat...

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Technical guidance publications

Model Code of Safe Practice Part 2: Guidance on the design, construction and operation of petroleum distribution installations

EI Model Code of Safe Practice Part 2: Guidance on the design, construction and operation of petroleum distribution installations has been developed to provide guidance and good practice in the layout, design and construction of distribution installations and their equipment. It also provides certai...

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G+ Safe by Design workshop report: WTG access and egress

This publication is available to download for free for registered users.The latest G+ Global Offshore Wind Health and Safety Organisation (G+) Safe by Design workshop focused on the issues associated with access and egress throughout a WTG and substructure (transfer from vessel/helicopter was not in...

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G+ 2017 incident data report

Free to download for registered users. For more information on the G+ visit www.gplusoffshorewind.comThe G+ is committed to providing the industry with information that will improve health and safety performance. Since the formation of the G+, members have been providing HSE information and statisti...

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Offshore wind leaders event report: Aims, action and industry commitment

Free to download for registered users. For more information on the G+ visit www.gplusoffshorewind.comThe G+ Global Offshore Wind Health and Safety Organisation together with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) hosted a review workshop at the HSE headquarters at Redgrave Court in Bootle on 26 ...

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G+ Safe by design workshop report: WTG access to the transition piece (below airtight deck)

Free to download for registered users. For more information on the G+ visit www.gplusoffshorewind.comThis report presents the findings from the latest G+ Global Offshore Wind Health and Safety Organisation (G+) Safe by Design workshop, which focused on the issues associated with access below th...

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