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  • hammaad saghir

Oxford Researchers Declare Wind and Solar Could Power All of Britain by 2050

Britain's wind and solar resources are more than sufficient to meet all its energy needs, according to a policy briefing prepared by researchers at the University of Oxford.

Britain's energy demand could be met entirely by wind and solar power by 2050, according to a new analysis which aims to dispel assumptions the technologies are too impractical or expensive to power a modern economy.

The policy briefing paper, published this morning by the University of Oxford, researchers at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, argues Britain could feasibly install enough solar and wind energy capacity by mid-century to provide 2,896TWh of power.

The figure is ten times the nation's current electricity needs and almost double the highest demand forecasts for all energy for 2050, including scenarios where much of the economy is electrified, the researchers said.

"Our brief shows that renewable energy can play a leading role in our transition to net zero," said Cameron Hepburn, Battcock Professor of Environmental Economics at the Smith School. "While it's likely that nuclear power and other renewables will also have a part to play, our analysis finds that it's entirely possible to power Great Britain on wind and solar alone."

Diving deeper into the numbers, the research paints a fascinating picture. Offshore wind farms, harnessing the natural might of Britain's gusty coastlines, are projected to deliver 73% of the country's total energy needs by 2050. Onshore wind will chip in an additional 7% while consuming a minuscule 0.07% of Britain's land. Utility-scale solar projects will be the workhorses for 19% of the energy supply, with rooftop solar installations accounting for the final 1%. Just envision approximately 8% of British rooftops gleaming with solar panels.

The researchers said their predictions were based on conservative estimates for renewable capacity that could be in operation by 2050.

As such, lead author Dr Brian O'Callaghan said achieving this level of renewables generation required to meet total demand was a "question of ambition rather than technical feasibility".

Doubters persist, citing the challenges tied to long-duration energy storage and grid resilience during diminished renewable energy production periods. However, the report counters that evolving technologies, like green hydrogen plants and increasingly affordable long-duration energy storage options, make an utterly renewable grid feasible and more reliable and cost-effective than clinging to fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Emerging from decades of significant cost reductions and impressive technological advancements, wind and solar are no longer merely alternatives but have become the most cost-effective options for new electricity generation in the UK.

And the political landscape? It's shifting, too. Just last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled a somewhat divisive package of climate reforms, vowing to eliminate the red tape that hampers renewable energy projects.

In the grand scheme of building a net-zero emission society, renewables aren't just playing a role; they're auditioning for the lead. And if this Oxford study tells us anything, they're more than ready for their close-up.


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