Modern households are a lot more well informed about the environment than they were a decade ago which means more and more people are trying to reduce their carbon footprint and limit the damage they cause to the world.
For that reason the popularity and prevalence of renewable energy has been steadily rising on a domestic, national and worldwide scale.
In recent years new objectives have been put in place which outline the government’s goal to produce 15% of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020. This may seem like a small percentage but when you consider that the total usage across the UK in 2009 was just 3%, it's easy to see why it may be a hard target to reach.
What is green energy?
The term 'green energy' is most commonly used to describe energy that is produced from renewable sources. Using green energy differs from using fossil fuels because the sources needed to make energy will never run out, unlike things such as oil and coal.
The four main types of renewable energy that are being developed in the UK are solar energy, hydroelectricity, wind power and biomass energy.
Man has been utilising the power of the sun for thousands of years but it's only recently that the popularity of solar power has really taken hold.
Thousands of households in the UK are now fitted with solar panels, which use photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Some UK councils offer grants for fitting solar panels and it's also possible to sell any excess power produced back to the grid.
The UK's wind farms are Europe's largest source of renewable energy, utilising turbines to produce electricity. Wind farms can be inland or offshore and can also be fitted to homes and businesses on a smaller scale.
Some people who live close to wind farms claim they produce an irritating humming noise and many people complain that the giant turbines are an eyesore on the horizon, but there's no denying that they are a powerful source of green energy.
Hydroelectricity uses moving water to create energy. Hydroelectricity can be created using different bodies of water such as the sea, rivers and lakes. It is even possible to create hydroelectricity on a smaller scale if you live near a water source.
In many cases a small scale hydroelectric device can produce enough power to run lighting and electrical items in a home.
Biomass energy has caused controversy because it creates power by burning natural materials, which seems like it would be bad for the environment, but the materials burned are crops that take CO2 out of the atmosphere whilst they are growing, which means that burning them becomes carbon neutral.
How can I utilise green energy?
When you use green energy to power your home you reduce your carbon footprint because creating the energy you need will produce less CO2. However, you can also reduce your carbon footprint by using less energy in your home.
There are lots of things you can do to make your home more environmentally friendly and one of the most important is making sure you have adequate insulation. Improving loft and wall cavity insulation is a must if you want to save energy – your home can lose up to 40% of its heat from a poorly insulated roof and up to 20% from badly insulated walls which can make a huge difference to your energy bills.
Installing double glazing can also make a big difference to the amount of heat you lose from your home and you'll soon earn back the initial expense in the money you save on energy bills.
When it comes to saving energy, little changes can make a big difference. Try reducing your thermostat by a few degrees, you won't notice the change in temperature but you will notice savings on your bill.
Make sure you switch off lights and don't leave appliances on standby. You can also switch to energy saving light bulbs and opt for the eco wash setting on your washing machine and dishwasher.
Green energy tariffs
Many energy providers are now offering green energy tariffs which use a percentage of the money you pay to fund eco projects around the world.
You can also find specialist green energy companies who generally supply power from renewable sources but they may also use power from the national grid.
However not all green energy tariffs use energy from renewable sources so if you want this to be part of your tariff make sure the company you choose uses green energy.
It should also be possible to find out which projects are being supported by the company you choose so you can get a better idea of where your money is going.
Most good energy companies will be able to offer you comprehensive advice about how to save energy and using green energy. If you're thinking of installing solar panels in your home or you want to improve your insulation then contact your energy provider to find out if you qualify for a grant.Back to top