According to the brief, solar and wind could produce nearly ten times Britain’s current electricity demand of 299 TWh/year. Image: Pixabay.

Britain could be solely powered by solar and wind power, according to a new policy brief by Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.  

Published last week (26 September) the brief anticipated the two technologies could produce nearly ten times Britain’s current electricity demand of 299 TWh/year and well over the highest energy demand forecast for Britain in 2050 of 1,500 TWh/year.

“This is a question of ambition rather than technical feasibility,” said lead author Dr Brian O’Callaghan.

“The UK is already lagging in the global green race. Instead of hitting reverse, we should be turbocharging on renewables with US-style incentives and gearing up our grid for the surge that is already underway.”

According to the analysis, utility-scale solar would contribute around 19% (544 TWh/year), with the remaining power (25 TWh/year) by rooftop solar, covering 8% of Britain’s roof area.

Offshore wind would produce the bulk of the energy (73%) at 2,121 TWh/year whilst onshore wind would contribute around 7% (206 TWh/year).

Graph: Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment policy brief authors.

The brief’s authors noted that significant grid upgrades, as well as the scaling of battery storage will be required to achieve these results. However, this can be achieved with the right policy and support.

“Initiatives to speed up renewable projects were the silver lining in an unfortunately poor set of policy announcements from the government this week. Our brief shows renewable energy can play a leading role in our transition to net zero. 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,” said Cameron Hepburn, Battcock professor of environmental economics at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.

“But we can’t rely on this to reduce emissions – moving to EVs, for example, was expected to deliver significant carbon savings of 23MtCO2e per year on average between 2033-2038. We need to use every tool at our disposal to reach net zero.”

The brief follows the Microgeneration Certification Scheme’s (MCS) recent announcement revealing that the UK has installed more solar power systems in 2023 than in all of 2022.

This article first appeared on Solar Power Portal’s sister publication Current±.