An impressive zero-emissions milestone was marked in May 2016 when, for 107 hours between Saturday 7 and Wednesday 11 May, Portugal’s electricity demand was met completely by solar, wind and hydro power. It’s a particular achievement for a country which had previously relied heavily on coal and natural gas – as recently as 2013, renewables provided less than a quarter of Portugal’s electricity supply.
This trend for increased use of renewable energy has not only been seen in Portugal. Just a few days later, Germany announced that clean energy (wind, solar, biomass and water) had supplied almost all of its electricity on Sunday 15 May. Likewise, during a two-day period in 2015, wind power supplied 140% of Denmark’s electricity needs, with the surplus being shared with Germany, Norway and Sweden.
These surges in supply from renewable sources make headlines today, but industry experts are predicting that this kind of energy model will be common in the future. James Watson, the CEO of SolarPower Europe, commented: “This is a significant achievement for a European country, but what seems extraordinary today will be commonplace in Europe in just a few years.”
So, where does Britain stand on the growing renewables trend? There are signs of a shift here, too – a new record was recently set when, over a 24 hour period in April, solar energy provided more electricity than coal-fired power stations. However, according to analysts Carbon Brief, the shift was due not only to the increase in solar capacity, but also to the decline in coal generation. Solar growth is also forecast to stagnate over coming months, as government incentives are cut.
The good news is that consumers can still choose to make a move towards renewables in the UK. Customers can opt for a green energy tariff, where the supplier commits to providing all or part of their energy from renewable sources. The Energy Saving Trust offers free and impartial advice on renewable installations, as well as details of financial incentives such as ECO, Feed In Tariffs and Renewable Heat Incentives.
Right here in Peterborough, the City Council’s Empower campaign offers homeowners the opportunity to have solar panels installed free of charge. Former Leader of Peterborough City Council, Marco Cereste, said of the scheme: “It bolsters our ever growing environmental credentials by reducing the carbon footprint of our residents and the city as a whole.”
While 107 hours of exclusively renewable energy might seem a long way off for the UK, maybe it can be a reality here in Peterborough a little sooner.