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About this book

​This book offers a detailed account of how renewable energy has moved from the margins to the mainstream in the UK, and of the battles that have been fought to achieve this, trawling through the often troubled history of government involvement.
The book examines how renewables became what now seem likely to be the dominant energy sources of the future. Renewable energy technologies, using solar and wind power and other natural energy sources, are now supplying around 30% of UK electricity and appear set to continue expanding to supply around 50% within the next decade. Although the emphasis of the book is on the UK, developments there are compared with those in other countries to provide an overall assessment of the relevance of the UK experience.
Chapters explore why the UK still lags behind many other countries in deploying renewables, in part, it is argued, due to its continued reliance on nuclear power. The book ends with a discussion on what sort of changes may be expected over the coming years. The author does not assume a single answer, but invites readers to consider the possibilities.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

1. Renewables: From the Fringe to Dominance

Abstract
The use of renewable energy sources is expanding rapidly around the world. This introductory chapter looks at the early days, when the idea of switching over to use ‘alternative energy’ was first mooted on the counter-cultural and environmental movement fringes. It has moved a long way since then, with renewables likely to become the dominant energy source. At least some of the impetus for this transition came from the so-called alternative technology movement, but this chapter argues that the main drivers have been external events like the 1973–1974 oil crisis and then, later on, the growing awareness of the risks and costs of climate change.
David Elliott

2. The Government Takes an Interest in the 1970s

Abstract
The UK government initiated a renewable energy programme following the 1973–1974 oil crisis. It looked at all the options, mainly via resource studies. Initially, wave energy and, to a lesser extent, tidal barrage power were quite strongly favoured, with the UK being well placed geographically to exploit both. Large potential energy resources were identified. Solar photovoltaics (PV) was seen as marginal, wind possibly too, though some project work was supported. However, despite good progress being made on wave-power system development by device teams, some adverse economic assessments led to the wave programme being more or less halted, amidst much dissention.
David Elliott

3. The Technology Moves on in the 1980s

Abstract
In the 1980s, the emphasis of the UK renewables programme shifted to wind energy, with some companies becoming involved with significant projects, including a 3 MW wind turbine. The review of tidal barrages, seen as promising, also continued, as did work on geothermal energy, with a test project in Cornwall. But, despite it being relegated to the ‘long shot’ category, interests in (and conflicts over) wave energy still remained. Although, with public funding becoming increasingly tight, under a Conservative government, the emphasis moved even more on to costs.
David Elliott

4. Forward to the Market into the 1990s

Abstract
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the focus in energy policy moved towards privatisation, with the leading renewables, like wind power, being expected to begin to move towards commercial viability so that government support could be removed. To help them, a special market-based support scheme was developed, the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation, although the main initial beneficiary of it was nuclear power. The less-developed renewables, like wave power, were faced with diminishing levels of support, and the deep geothermal and tidal programmes were halted.
David Elliott

5. Interim Analysis of the Story So Far

Abstract
This review chapter takes stock of the story so far, up to the year 2000. Given privatisation, and, imminently, market liberalisation, the renewables clearly faced new challenges. Costs were still mostly high, and, although the NFFO did help wind projects to move to lower costs, with financial support falling for the less-developed options, their prospects looked poor. However, the prospects for solar PV, until then mostly seen as marginal, began to look-up, with a new Technology Foresight exercise also suggesting that wave and tidal stream energy should be revisited. The cyclic pattern of wave (and tidal) ups and downs seemed set to repeat.
David Elliott

6. The Market Takes Off Into the 2000s

Abstract
With climate change now a major policy issue, some quite radical carbon and renewables targets were set for the EU, with the UK, under a Labour administration, launching its own market-led programme, overseen by a new Department of Energy and Climate Change and backed by a new support mechanism, the Renewables Obligation (RO), as well as a Feed-In Tariff (FiT) for small projects. The subsequent Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government replaced the RO with an auction-based Contracts for Difference system for renewables, and also backed nuclear. However, with renewable capacity building up rapidly, the cost to consumers was also building up, while technology costs were falling. So, somewhat provocatively, radical cuts and caps were imposed on PV and onshore wind.
David Elliott

7. Sorting the System in the 2010s

Abstract
With renewable capacity building up, despite the cuts, in the 2010s, attention moved on to system balancing and backup, so as to deal with variable renewables. A capacity market was established but was mainly focused on contracting with fossil and nuclear plants, rather than the demand management and storage options which many thought were more appropriate. However, some attention was also paid to the demand side and to heating, although there were some failures/backsliding, as with the Green Deal and the Zero Carbon Homes programme and, arguably, also the Renewable Heat Incentive. With the smart meter programme also looking less than ideal, and the Green Investment Bank being sold off, the government faced plenty of problems.
David Elliott

8. The Future into the 2020s and Beyond

Abstract
The UK experience with renewable energy offers some policy lessons for the future. Competitive mechanisms have their place, but the UK experience has been mixed, with some at least of the mistakes arguably being due to an overzealous political belief in the efficacy of markets as a way to identify winners and get prices down rapidly. Nevertheless, some progress has been made, even if it has been slow compared with some other countries and also may not have been exactly in the direction originally envisaged by the early AT pioneers. Whether that matters or not may depend on what happens next. Will renewables just become a technical fix for a basically unchanged society, or are there other pathways ahead?
David Elliott

Backmatter

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