By Paul Webb Chartered Energy Manager, MIE

I do not confess to be a renewables expert, nor do I confess to be an influencer in the industry of renewables. As an Energy Expert however, I do need to keep up to date regarding this industry as this impacts heavily on the strategies we are delivering for an organisation. This impact is shown in the cost of energy and the costs of technology within the projects.

Even though I promote organisations embracing ‘solar’, my main objective will always be to reduce energy consumption. I think applied at the wrong time in a project, I would foresee issues regarding ‘bad energy practices’ being hidden but the culture of it doesn’t  matter now as we have free energy. There is a particular saying in life which is ‘nothing is free’. Systems still need to be maintained and systems have a life cycle, so it is imperative to manage the demand more vigilantly to maintain the return on investments.

This week has been an interesting week. It all started when I set the scene on LinkedIn and put the challenge out there regarding what I should discuss. I’m not actually surprised with the result as I’m a member of ‘The Clean Energy Revolution’ group and I know they were keen to see my weekly insights. I didn’t think it was going to create so much of a stink as I was amazed by how many people came out of the woodwork attacking my views on ‘Climate Change’ and the stats I presented (though I had said it was not verified).

I want to go through two areas on this article. Firstly I want to discuss the technologies and what they are, then secondly address the statistics around renewables.

There are different types of renewable energy sources around the world that we can tap into and they all come from the earth and our environment:

  • Biomass
  • Solar Power
  • Wind Power
  • Tidal Power
  • Hydro Power
  • Geothermal

These all come with their challenges and like everything, the biggest challenge is investment. However, these costs will decrease whilst quality and volume will increase.

Renewable energy is becoming increasingly important as fossil fuels provide volatility in the pricing of energy and the threat of ‘Climate Change’. Unfortunately, this is a fact, and we need to address this the best we can. Many people however, deny this is true.

These sources play a part in a organisations journey and it is worthwhile having an understanding of the long-term benefits and impact. If we significantly decrease the amount of kWh that are being consumed and increase the amount of renewable energy being supplied , the ‘Global Targets’ would be achieved earlier.

I want to just briefly explain what these sources are:


Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and can come from ‘Municipal Waste’.  In a way this is one of the oldest type of renewables as we would burn logs for fires.

It provides the same process, but calorific values are important here. I think we will see Biomass continue to develop and evolve over the years regarding technology being developed to burn and absorb energy from chemical energy created by the sun.

Solar Power

Solar power is often found in three areas, the commercial roofing area, domestic dwellings and ground base. All systems operate in the exact same way whereby we harvest sun rays and convert them through solar panels. When the rays hit a solar panel, it reacts with silicon crystals in each the panel to produce an electric current. This current in Direct Current (DC).  It is then converted to Alternating Current (AC). Solar has its challenges though, with cloudy days and reduced performance and not being able to deliver night loads. My thoughts here are that ‘batteries will evolve and meet this challenge’. Once this energy has been generated, it can be fed into the grid, a smart grid or straight into the property.

Wind Power

Wind power is an energy conversion where turbine converts kinetic energy of the wind into electrical energy. This again is another old technology. When you think of the ‘Windmill’ ,

the principles are pretty much the same as we use the ‘wind’ to propel turbines. These do cause issues regarding too much or not enough wind, and systems do not generate but again technology grows and evolves. In the UK we are seeing many offshore wind farms which I think suit the view, I for one never tire of seeing these on land or out at sea.

Tidal Power

Tidal power is an energy which is a form of hydropower that converts the energy from the movement of the tide into useful forms of power, mainly electricity. Although not yet widely used, tidal energy has potential for future electricity generation. Tides are predictable therefore providing significant a regular supply.


Hydropower is an energy produced from generators driven by turbines that convert the potential energy of falling or fast-flowing water into mechanical energy. The most famous Hydropower plant I know is Dinorwig and working in the C.E.G.B we would see the impact of that every day when it would come on-line at 18.00 everyday. We would actually see the 50Hz fluctuate.


Geothermal is an energy that is the thermal energy generated and stored from within the Earth. The geothermal energy of the Earth’s crust originates from deep down into the ground. Some countries have access to this where I believe that the earth’s crust is thinner. There are also natural springs and by drilling down a significant depth, increased temperatures can be found. We are seeing the physics impact of the Ground Source Heat pumps.

I hope this gives a good overview of what the renewables that are out there, are. I have not discussed Hydrogen within this article as it is still, for me,  very complex and although it has its place, it is not a mainstream renewable. ( I am sure though that it may attract some interest but I am not an scientist that can explain this concisely).

So lastly, I wanted to discuss the variations and confusion over statistics in the industry regarding ‘renewables’. It is like everything with the ‘internet’, trying to get the real facts and figures of an incomplete science. I am therefore sorry if my data last week has clouded the actual facts that the world is slowly adopting ‘renewable culture’ which is what I was trying to portray. There is some confusion over 100% renewables within countries and if we will be able to deliver this. It is my personal opinion that there will be an eventual break point where renewables will be making a difference to the Global Energy need and making the job of the Energy Manager an easier process.