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Study shows that energy equivalent to 29% of electricity consumption could be provided from renewable sources by 2005

In 1995 a study was carried out into the renewable energy resources of the East Midlands. It was eventually published in 1998. The study was funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and the European Commission and published by ETSU.

It concludes that by 2005 it would be practicable to provide energy equivalent to 29% of electricity consumed in the East Midlands from renewable energy sources. Solar power could provide nearly two thirds of this potential, and energy crops most of the rest.

The government target is 10% by 2010. Regional Planning Guidance suggests renewable energy should be encouraged where economically viable and environmentally acceptable (RPG8, 1994, paras 12.3-12.5).


Energy supply is measured in kilowatt hours per year (kWh/y) or gigawatt hours per year (GWh/y). (One gigawatt = one million kilowatts.)

East Midlands Electricity provided 24,156 GWh/y in 1995 (but its boundaries are not exactly the same as the EM region). Average domestic consumption is 4,200 kWh/y, so the 1.9 million households in the EM use around 8,000 GWh/y.

Average annual radiation from the sun is 3kwh/square metre/day in the EM (area measured horizontally). This adds up to 16 million GWh/y across the East Midlands.

Estimates of practicable resources of renewable energy in the East Midlands

The study estimates the amount of energy which could be exploited by 2005 and 2025. These are ambitious estimates of what could be done if the will was there. The following table shows estimates of renewable energy which can practicably be developed in GWh/y.

Renewable Energy Practicable Resource Estimates
East Midlands (GWh/y) 2005 2025
Passive Solar 821 2071
Photovoltaic 2520 2700
Active Solar 1019 1076
Energy Crops 1626 1626
Wind 236-287 236-287
Hydroelectric 68-76 68-76
Industrial/municipal waste - 450 *
Landfill gas 318-392 -
Poultry litter 123-160 123-160
Tyres 45 * 37 *
Wet farm waste 20-32 20-32
Anaerobic digestion - 30
TOTAL 6797-6978 8438-8555
Equivalent no of homes 1.62-1.66m 2.01-2.03m

(The final line shows the number of homes' average electricity consumption equivalent to the energy which could be provided from renewable sources.)

* FOE does not support the incineration of municipal waste or other materials such as tyres - which can save more energy by recycling. These should not be included under the heading "renewable". (For a discussion of recycling versus incineration see our waste page.


Passive solar design

Passive solar gain is achieved by architectural design, for example glass on South facing walls. It is estimated that around 11,000 GWh/y is already gained in the region through unplanned design (not included in the above table). For new housing, an extra 1,000 kWh/y could be gained per house from good design, saving 20-25% of electricity use. Most of the potential shown in the table comes from retrofitting existing homes with low-emissivity glass when windows are replaced. But higher cost is likely to limit takeup.

Photovoltaic (PV)

PV cells provide the largest potential contribution to renewable energy supply. The sun provides an average of 3 kWh/square metre/day. Typical PV efficiency is 10%, so should provide 100 kWh/y per square metre in the East Midlands. The above table assumes half of all dwellings could put 15 square metres on their roof, and 50% of non-domestic roof area could be covered. PV costs would have to fall substantially for this to be economic.

Active solar

Active solar systems transfer the sun's heat to a fluid, usually water. The main potential is to provide domestic hot water using panels on the roof. The table assumes 50% of houses could achieve 1,200 kWh/y. Local authorities should do a lot more to promote this.

Energy crops

Incinerating crops is the next most important source of renewable energy after solar energy. 60% of the total in the table could come from straw, and 40% from short rotation coppice such as willow and poplar. However, these coppice crops use a lot of water, so effect on the water table is a limiting factor.

Energy from waste

ETSU's figures suggest that around 8% of total "renewable energy" could be recovered from waste or waste products. Initially most would come from burning landfill gas. A significant contribution could also come from incinerating poultry waste. However, most of the potential suggested by ETSU would require large incinerators being built in every county to take muncipal and general industrial waste. A small contribution could come from anaerobic digestion of organic waste, including wet farm waste.


Wind energy in the East Midlands could contribute 3% of total renewable energy. 266 turbines are possible, with half in Derbyshire and a quarter in Leicestershire. It is assumed none would be approved in the Peak Park.

Hydroelectric power

Turbines on the region's rivers could provide 1% of total renewable energy, half of this in Nottinghamshire and most of the rest in Derbyshire.

The full report is available from ETSU (tel: 01235 432450).
Quote ref ETSU K/PL/00013/REP.

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East Midlands
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Updated 2 August 1999 Home page Return to top of page