What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is the term used to describe energy that occurs naturally and continuously in the environment, such as energy from the sun, wind, waves or tides.


How do we define renewable energy?

Renewable energy is the term used to describe energy that occurs naturally and continuously in the environment, such as energy from the sun, wind, waves or tides. This means that these sources are essentially inexhaustible, if not intermittent.

Renewable energy sources emit lower levels of carbon dioxide emissions – one of the main greenhouse gases contributing to climate change – than fossil fuel-based generation plants.

Today, there is growing demand for renewables to be a larger part of the UK energy mix. Indeed, we may well need to generate 40% of our electricity from this form of generation by 2020 to meet our international commitments.

Types of renewable energy

Wind Power

Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines and constitutes approximately 1% of global electricity output. 

Solar Power

Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity by the use of photovoltaic panels. Although not as popular in the UK compared to that of other sunnier nations, solar power has one huge advantage in that it utilises the greatest source of energy in our solar system – the sun.

Marine Energy

Tidal Power

Tidal power, sometimes called tidal energy, is a form of renewable energy that converts the energy of tides into electricity or other useful forms of power. Although not yet widely used, tidal power has potential for future electricity generation.

Wave Power

Wave power refers to the energy of ocean surface waves and the capture of that energy to produce electricity.

Other types of renewable energy

Biomass, heat pumps and hydro power.

 
Dr Jenifer Baxter

Dr Jenifer Baxter

Energy policy spokesperson

Dr Jenifer Baxter joined the Institution as Head of Energy and the Environment in May 2015. Jenifer works closely with members to raise the profile of engineers and engineering potential, to generate discussion and provide thought leadership in the energy and environment sectors.

Read Jenifer's full biography