The UK has been targeted by the EU to ensure that renewable energy contributes at least 20% of the overall power generation market by 2020, bringing the UK into line with the rest of the world where renewable energy provides an average of 22% of electricity generation.
To achieve these targets there has been significant investment into the renewables sector with an estimated £29.8 billion invested between 2010 and 2013. Most of that investment was into the renewable electricity market but onshore wind, offshore wind, solar PV and biomass also receive multi-billion Pound investments.
By region, England and Scotland represent 94% of UK investment. English investment is primarily in offshore wind, solar and biomass whereas Scottish investment is mainly onshore wind; however per capita investment in Scotland was more than twice that of England and three times that of Northern Ireland and Wales.
Putting the UK into perspective, global investment in the renewable technologies was more than $210 billion in 2013 with countries such as the United States, Brazil and China investing heavily in wind, solar, hydro and biofuels.
Wind power, or air flow, can be harnessed to run wind turbines. The most popular for commercial use are turbines with rated output of 1.5-3 MV however utility-scale wind turbines are rated from around 600kW to 5MW of power.
The long-term potential of wind energy is believed to be 40 times the current electricity demand or five times the total currant global energy production if all barriers to energy creation were removed.
Wind power is growing at a rate of approximately 30% pa, with a global installed capacity of more than 280,000 MW.
Solar energy can be harnessed using a range of technologies such as solar heating, photovoltaics, concentrated solar power, solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis. Depending on how the solar energy is captured, converted and distributed, solar technologies are generally classed as passive solar or active solar.
Tidal energy is a relatively new renewable source and harnesses hydropower to transform energy from tides into electricity.
In the UK alone the wave and tidal industry has been forecast to create almost 20,000 jobs and be worth £6.1bn. The Government and European Union are backing new world class technologies that are being built and installed in U.K waters.
Data source PWC, review of the UK renewable energy sector 2014 and beyond.
With almost zero investment before 2011, the UK solar industry has received almost £6 billion in funds over the past three years and a further £5 billion by the end of 2016. Including large scale solar (>5MW), investment into the solar market is expected to outweigh both onshore and offshore wind.