What is a renewable energy source?

A renewable energy source means energy that is sustainable – something that can’t run out, or is endless, like the sun. When you hear the term ‘alternative energy’ it’s usually referring to renewable energy sources too. It means sources of energy that are alternative to the most commonly used non-sustainable sources – like coal. They are preferable because they don’t contribute to the rising temperatures on earth. You can read about renewable energy companies on US-Reviews to know what other people are saying about the green energy companies they have patronized.

What is zero-carbon or low-carbon energy?

Nuclear-generated electricity isn’t renewable but it’s zero-carbon(1), which means its generation emits low levels or almost no CO2, just like renewable energy sources. Nuclear energy has a stable source, which means it’s not dependent on the weather and will play a big part in getting Britain to net zero status.

All our tariffs are backed by zero-carbon electricity and if you choose to switch to us, you could play your part now in achieving the net zero target.

The most popular renewable energy sources currently are:

  • Solar energy
  • Wind energy
  • Hydro energy
  • Tidal energy
  • Geothermal energy
  • Biomass energy

How these types of renewable energy work

1)    Solar energy

Sunlight is one of our planet’s most abundant and freely available energy resources. The amount of solar energy that reaches the earth’s surface in one hour is more than the planet’s total energy requirements for a whole year. Although it sounds like a perfect renewable energy source, the amount of solar energy we can use varies according to the time of day and the season of the year as well as geographical location. In the UK, solar energy is an increasingly popular way to supplement your energy usage. Find out if it’s right for you by reading our guide to solar power.

2)    Wind energy

Wind is a plentiful source of clean energy. Wind farms are an increasingly familiar sight in the UK with wind power making an ever-increasing contribution to the National Grid. To harness electricity from wind energy, turbines are used to drive generators which then feed electricity into the National Grid. Although domestic or ‘off-grid’ generation systems are available, not every property is suitable for a domestic wind turbine. Find out more about wind energy on our wind power page.

3)    Hydro energy

As a renewable energy resource, hydro power is one of the most commercially developed. By building a dam or barrier, a large reservoir can be used to create a controlled flow of water that will drive a turbine, generating electricity. This energy source can often be more reliable than solar or wind power (especially if it’s tidal rather than river) and also allows electricity to be stored for use when demand reaches a peak. Like wind energy, in certain situations hydro can be more viable as a commercial energy source (dependant on type and compared to other sources of energy) but depending very much on the type of property, it can be used for domestic, ‘off-grid’ generation. Find out more by visiting our hydro power page.

4)    Tidal energy

This is another form of hydro energy that uses twice-daily tidal currents to drive turbine generators. Although tidal flow unlike some other hydro energy sources isn’t constant, it is highly predictable and can therefore compensate for the periods when the tide current is low. Find out more by visiting our marine energy page.

5)    Geothermal energy

By harnessing the natural heat below the earth’s surface, geothermal energy can be used to heat homes directly or to generate electricity. Although it harnesses a power directly below our feet, geothermal energy is of negligible importance in the UK compared to countries such as Iceland, where geothermal heat is much more freely available.

6)    Biomass Energy

This is the conversion of solid fuel made from plant materials into electricity. Although fundamentally, biomass involves burning organic materials to produce electricity, and nowadays this is a much cleaner, more energy-efficient process. By converting agricultural, industrial and domestic waste into solid, liquid and gas fuel, biomass generates power at a much lower economic and environmental cost.