Clean energy. Net zero. Low carbon. You’ve probably heard these terms and are interested in a career related to energy but what does renewable energy mean and why is it so important?
Renewable energy refers to energy sources like solar (which captures energy from the sun) and wind. These can be replenished in a sustainable manner, and in most cases, have a smaller impact on the environment, compared to non-renewable energy sources.
Other types of renewable energy include geothermal (heat collected from below the earth’s surface) and biomass (energy created from burning human/animal waste or plant-based materials).
Conventional sources of energy – fossil fuels such as oil and gas – must be burned to release their energy. This releases carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, which causes climate change. There is also a limited supply of oil and gas.
Energy sources such as solar and wind are not based on extracting a physical material, such as coal, so they can’t run out. They also do not release carbon dioxide at the point of use, meaning they are cleaner and much better for the planet.
The UK government has a legally binding target to reduce our carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Net zero means that we decrease our carbon dioxide emissions by as much as possible, and any remaining emissions are balanced by taking the equivalent amount of carbon out of the environment.
This is why people discuss future energy goals using terms like net zero or low carbon.
More information on the benefits of solar energy is available in Solar Energy UK’s energy security briefing, and in the other reports available on the Solar Energy UK resources page.