20 fascinating renewable energy facts to inspire you
18 March 2021 | Celia Topping
In the UK’s bid to be carbon neutral by 2050, renewable energy is centre stage. It’s clean and green, and harnesses natural sources – and whether it’s solar power, wind power, geothermal power, hydro power or tidal power, it can help us tackle many of the world’s most pressing problems.
In general, renewable energy leads to healthier, more sustainable lives. And thankfully, it’s more popular and affordable than ever before, right across the globe.
These 20 facts reveal the huge potential of renewables. And as we look to the future, they highlight just how much it’s developed, and how powerful it can be in shaping an energy system that’s fit for the 21st century.
- Wind energy is the largest source of renewable power in the UK. There are almost 11,000 turbines on and offshore, generating nearly 66 million MWh of electricity a year. That’s the equivalent of powering over 18 million homes1!.
- In the first 3 months of 2020, renewable energy sources, like wind and solar generated 47% of the UK’s electricity.
- According to Bloomberg, global investment in clean energy hit just over $500 billion in 2020, with an increase of 9% compared to 2019.
- Renewable energy creates more jobs for women. A recent report shows that women hold 32% of renewables jobs, compared to just 21% in fossil fuel roles.
- Siemens built the first-ever commercial offshore wind turbine 30 years ago. Its blades were a modest 5 metres long, and it created just 30 kilowatts of power. But the latest model (since becoming Siemens Gamesa) is immense – with 108-metre-long blades, on a 222-meter diameter rotor. Just one turbine can generate enough electricity to power around 18,000 homes every year.
- Hydropower is the most widely-used renewable power source. It accounts for more than 54% of the global renewable power generation capacity, and 18% of the world’s total power generation.
- Costa Rica is a world leader in renewable energy. In 2017, this small Central American nation lasted 300 consecutive days on renewable energy alone.
- Switching to wind, water and solar worldwide could eliminate 4 to 7 million deaths from air pollution every year.
- Just to give you an idea of the tremendous potential of solar power – every hour, the sun beams enough solar energy onto Earth to keep everyone on our planet supplied with electricity for an entire year. Pretty incredible eh?
- Between 2007 and 2017, the world's renewable electricity sourced from solar power increased a whopping 4,300 percent.
- Romans were the very first to use geothermal energy to heat their homes, building systems that encouraged warm air to move under floors and inside walls.
- A world record was set in 1990, when a solar-powered airplane flew across the United States in stages, using no fuel at all.
- Renewable energy currently creates 5 times more jobs than fossil fuels. The number of renewable energy jobs grew from 1.7 million in 2004, to 10.3 million in 2017, and 11.5 million in 2019. This is according to the annual review from International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
- In 1921 Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the photoelectric effect – which led to the invention of solar panels.
- The renewable energy industry is growing fast. By 2025, the global market is expected to be worth $1,512.3.6 bn!
- The Itaipu Dam in Paraguay creates 76% of the country’s electricity, and 17% of the electricity consumed in Brazil (displacing 67.5 million tonnes of CO2 every year).
- Iceland is the only country in the world where renewable sources generate 100% of its electricity and heat.
- All the world’s power could be generated by renewables by 2050 if the right political, financial and societal decisions are made. And fast.
- NASA has been developing space technology that could give the world’s population affordable green energy from an unlikely source – the moon! Their Watts on the Moon project is inviting ideas to solve the tasks of storage, sourcing and managing energy, all from our nearest neighbour.
- China built 100GW-worth of wind farms in 2020 – that’s more than the rest of the world built in 2019! These wind farms alone could generate enough power for almost 3 times the number of homes in the UK.
What’s so cool about renewable energy?
Here are 3 cool things about renewable energy:
- The first is in the name. Renewable means it will never run out! Unlike fossil fuels, which are depleting our planet more each day, renewable energy is in abundant, neverending supply. Because it’s created by natural resources like the sun, wind and water, we’ll always be able to keep making energy.
- It protects the environment. There are no nasty carbon emissions produced by green energy. This means less air pollution and global warming.
- It saves us money. Renewable energy plants, once built, need less maintenance. And as we have our own sun and wind in the UK (maybe more of the latter than the former!), we don’t need to import energy from elsewhere.
To find out much more about how renewable energy is shaping our future, take a look at our informative guides.
What you can do to drive a greener future
Just by joining OVO, you can play an important role in the nation’s carbon-zero journey. For a start, we’ll help you reduce your carbon footprint, by supplying you with guaranteed 100% renewable electricity2. And in partnership with The Woodland Trust, we also plant a carbon-munching tree every year3 in your name.
If you don’t already have a smart meter, you can get one for free with our cheapest Better Smart tariff. Our smart meter, with its handy pal, the In-Home Display, is the most effective way to track your carbon emissions, tweak your energy use and cut your bills.
OVO Greenlight is also available to all OVO members, helping you calculate the impact of your habits on the planet. It offers handy hints on how to reduce your carbon footprint, and care for the environment.
And if you choose our green upgrade, OVO Beyond, you’ll benefit from 100% carbon-neutral energy4. Not only that, but with Energy Spotlights, you can cut your bills by 10%5.
Switching to OVO is easy. Get a quote in seconds, and start saving today!
Sources and references:
2 The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.
3 Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change
4 Enjoy even greener energy with OVO Beyond in comparison with our standard OVO plans. In addition to 100% renewable electricity as available with our standard plans, OVO Beyond reduces your yearly carbon emissions from the energy used in your home that is supplied by OVO to net zero by providing 100% carbon-neutral gas (15% green gas and 85% offset) and offsetting all associated lifecycle carbon emissions involved in the production and consumption of your electricity & gas, you will also get 5 trees per year in UK schools and communities and other green benefits. The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. The green gas we sell is backed via renewable certificates (Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin (RGGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin and how these work. We offset the remaining emissions by supporting UN REDD+ carbon reduction projects that are certified to the Verified Carbon Standard or the Gold Standard. See here for more information on how we restore nature and protect rainforests with our offsetting programmes.
5 Savings of up to 10% are based on an estimated reduction in energy use for a dual fuel medium user (3100 kWhs electricity and 12000 kWhs gas) who upgrades to OVO Beyond without having a smart meter or smart thermostat installed yet. Savings are (1) calculated on this estimated reduction in energy use in the first year of having OVO Beyond, and (2) based on reducing your energy use by using your smart meter In-Home Display (IHD) and the OVO app to make changes to your energy habits (like optimising heating settings, switching lights off). Savings are an estimate only and your actual savings will vary depending on your energy use and the changes you make to your energy habits.