Jul 18 2015

UK Struggles To Meet Economic Demands of Clean Energy

Published by under Student blog entries

The following story comes from an article in The Guardian titled, “UK running out of money to pay for clean energy”. Under standards imposed from the European Union, the United Kingdom is expected to produce %15 of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2020 (Syal, “UK running out of money to pay for clean energy”). Efforts have been made by the country in pursuit of that standard, but, author Rajeev Syal reports, the money dedicated by the UK government to accomplish that goal has already been spent as of this year (Syal). Costs to the consumer have not been optimal either, as residents have seen energy bills rise by an average of £60, $94, as well as adding to net household costs by an average of around £75, $117 (Syal). These numbers have lead conservative UN policymakers to question the efficacy and strategy of the UK’s costly green program while inciting the government to curb, “’reckless and wasteful’” spending (Syal).

One of the major obstructions to the development of global clean energy programs is the high economic costs associated with providing more expensive, albeit, renewable energy. When businesses, government institutions, and homeowners are faced with the option of clean energy or a reduced energy bill from traditional sources, they will most often choose the most economically viable option: nonrenewable energy. This story of the UK’s troubles with clean energy programs is a perfect example of the drawbacks to clean energy. This issue becomes even further complicated when one take’s into consideration that most economic issues are usually political issues when individuals and interest groups have a vested desire in keeping costs of living down. In systems such as the United States’ or UK’s legislative governmental branches, policies that advance future rewards at the expense of the present are often deemed unfavorable and put on legislative back order. When approaching the issue of clean energy from an economic or political standpoint one run’s the risk of missing another important consideration: the impact of present day personal and business decisions on the character and survivability of the global environment and ecological systems as evidenced by scientific research into energy and climate change.


Syal, R., “UK running out of money to pay for clean energy”, The Guardian. 16, July 2015.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/16/uk-running-out-of-money-to-pay-for-c lean-energy

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “UK Struggles To Meet Economic Demands of Clean Energy”

  1.   Samuel Garveron 22 Jul 2015 at 9:58 pm

    You bring up a very interesting point about renewables, one that I feel most people don’t take into consideration when we talk about renewable energy sources, that is the costs of these devices to the government. I think that for most people, when asked about renewable energy they think of the benefits: reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, building a sustainable energy system for the future, expanding clean energy to help the environment. But most people, myself included, forget to consider the costs involved in planning, construction, and operation of a renewable energy device, and who the cost goes to. There are big upfront costs with the renewables. Ethan asked Mike Remige, the Jenette’s Pier director, about the costs of the three wind turbines on the pier. He said that each turbine will take 15 years to pay itself off. That’s a good amount time to see a return. For the thousands and thousands of turbines they have built, that is a huge upfront cost to the government, and thus the citizens. Granted, most of the wind turbines in the UK have private investors, but that power is still being sold to the power companies and sold to the consumers, as the article states, at a higher cost. Like you said in your response, a future reward with upfront costs isn’t going to be popular. Renewable energy is the best option for us in the future, but the costs cannot be forgotten when discussing and planning for expansion of renewables.

  2.   Emily Inkroteon 23 Jul 2015 at 4:03 pm

    It is no surprise that such a quick and forced transfer to renewable energy has sent the UK into an economic struggle. Since most renewable energy technologies are still in the development stage, they are mostly expensive and unreliable. Continued scientific research will likely see prices fall, but that point is still in the future as of today.
    15% of the UK’s energy coming from renewable sources doesn’t sound like a large amount, but the time constraint of getting it done by 2020 puts pressure on the country that may not be handled well. A quick switch to clean energy at low costs to consumers sounds great but it is currently just not feasible. Not only are costs incredibly high, but a shorter period of time means less time allotted for environmental impact assessment and testing. A greater amount of time to make the switch would allow for testing to increase efficiency, safety, and decrease cost.
    It is definitely true that when most people are faced with the decision of clean renewable energy vs. cheaper energy, they will choose the cheaper option. Many average people also don’t know the impact of the energy they are using and the pollution they are creating. Maybe education on the topic of carbon emissions and fossil fuel based pollution would help steer people in the direction of renewable energy.
    The situation that the UK is currently in does not present the US with a very favorable view of clean energy. The US needs to begin to work more heavily on renewable energy technologies, but the cost issues that the UK is encountering could scare government officials as well as investors. On a positive note, we could use the UK’s issue as a learning experience when developing a plan to improve and increase the renewable energy use in the United States. While economics will always be a concern, the political atmosphere in the US could also pose a great conflict when implementing renewable energy plans. Due to a suite of concerns and possible problems, it is important to create a well-researched plan which allows time for environmental impact assessments while also putting pressure on the country to reduce fossil fuel use.

  3.   Ethan Laneyon 25 Jul 2015 at 12:25 am

    I am inclined to ask who is responsible to make this change? I think there would be little argument against the fact that a change to renewable energy is necessary. However, how are we supposed to get there? Is it through capitalism, government intervention, or the public will to demand clean energy? Maybe a combination of the three. However, I do believe that as the market continues to grow, competition will cause a drop in price. It is already visible in the solar market, where technology and competition for newer and better solutions have caused the price to plummet. It seems as if the UK tried the government intervention route, and it has only caused said government to be poorer than they would have been had they continued on the road towards a darker sky. Does this make them wrong, or are they the flagship from which other governments will learn mistakes and better plan for a responsible energy future?