This gorgeous, perfect treat of a summer is a good time to remind ourselves of the power of the sun.
It does more than give you a tan and allow for al fresco dining til late.
Harnessed properly, it can do way more for us than merely keep us alive.
10% of the UK’s energy is currently coming from solar, thanks to the fabulous skies this summer.
The irony may well be that the heatwave, potentially made worse by climate change caused by CO2 emissions, is helping the UK to generate more clean energy.
But solar (and wind) can cut our energy bills and get our CO2 emissions right down. The only thing they can’t do for the planet right now is reduce plastic consumption.
Yet the solar industry is having a tough time of it. According to Goldman Sachs, global installations are set to contract by 24 per cent by the end of 2018. The UK Government is scrapping support for it altogether from next year (though it is still backing fracking).
If solar is so great, why is it not already the dominant source of energy? That’s complicated, but it is hard for developers to make profits from producing a type of energy that is basically in constant supply.
As batteries for solar come into regular use (a Tesla domestic battery will set you back about £4,000 now, with installation), this should make solar more feasible for homes and businesses.
Here are six reasons to really worship the sun this summer.
- Solar energy is cheaper than nuclear – and there’s more of it. Watch Elon Musk discuss solar v nuclear here. Thanks to rapid technological advances in recent years, the cost of solar panels has fallen. It’s also potentially cheaper for all of us, the end users, in our homes, despite worries to the contrary. Onshore wind is actually the cheapest form of renewable energy generation out there, so a combo of the two, in much greater numbers, could really help our bills come down.
Last week, the National Infrastructure Commission produced a report, which found that: “making this switch towards low-carbon and renewable sources for both the country’s power and heating, combined with a move towards electric vehicles, would mean the customer of 2050 would pay the same in real terms for their energy as today.”
2. Tom Cruise runs over some of the most famous solar panels in London, installed by Solar Century, in the latest Mission Impossible film, out this week.
3. Solar energy needs us to get behind it. The Government wants to scrap solar subsidies entirely from next March, which Greenpeace says will lead to thousands of job losses in the solar industry. If you are uninitiated in this subsidies business, subsidies were originally introduced to help get this beneficial industry off the ground. The aim was always that solar would be able to stand on its own two feet, once the cost of the panels and installations was low enough and developers could make a profit. But the cuts to subsidies have happened too early, the industry says, which is why we have seen a drop in installations recently and why we will probably see fewer still in the coming months. Same goes for onshore wind, incidentally.
Doug Parr, Greenpeace Chief Scientist said: “It’s absolutely shocking that just weeks after the government’s main advisers on infrastructure and tackling climate change strongly recommended that the government back wind and solar industries because they are the cheapest and cleanest forms of power for the UK, that government is hanging these industries out to dry. The government is not planning on financially or politically supporting them at all. Jobs will go, skills will be lost, investment will dry up, and opportunities will be squandered. This is a farcical situation compared to the billion pound government bail out being considered for the Japanese nuclear company struggling to build a nuclear power station in Wales. It reveals another layer of the government’s nuclear obsession that lacks economic or environmental merit, which will see the UK struggle to meet its climate targets, and leaving our reputation for leadership on tackling climate change in tatters.”
If you want to get behind the solar – and of course wind – industries, sign up to 10:10, an awesome campaign group doing its best to keep renewables on course in the UK.
3. It can save you money. No money to install your own solar panels? Then switch to a pure green renewable electricity supplier, such as Pure Planet. These suppliers provide 100% renewable electricity and often a proportion of renewable gas too, at prices that come in much lower than the Big Six fossil fuel-based suppliers. Check out the yearly savings you could make by visiting Pure Planet, our partner for this blog. Here is our pick of the greenest energy providers.
4. If you can install solar panels and a battery to your home, you will rarely need to pay for an electricity supply – because you’ll be making your own. There are big benefits of being self sufficient for your energy in a world of interdependence and volatile oil prices. There’s an outlay of around £5,000 for a typical array though – so the upfront costs can be high. But if you are planning on staying in your home for long enough to recoup that amount on saved energy? Eco bargain.
5. It’s changing lives in Africa. Solar light charities such as Solar Aid are distributing domestic solar systems to communities without a mains electricity source. It doesn’t sound like much but a home with a small solar lighting system can achieve a lot more than one that requires kerosene lamps after dark.
6. It’s the source of all energy anyway – fossil fuels are just solar energy compacted into matter lying deep underground – taking it straight from source is far less complicated.