Can renewable energy sources power the world?
Can renewable energy sources power the world?

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Can renewable energy sources power the world?

Week 1: Introducing renewable energy


In this first week you will look at the environmental concerns that have caused the rise in interest in renewable energy. You will also explore the wide variety of renewable energy sources, along with some energy concepts and definitions to help you understand the subject.

You will investigate the Sun, which powers most of the renewable energy sources, then move on to discuss energy supply and demand, in the world and the UK, and then look briefly at the problem of climate change.

Current European and UK targets for increasing the share of renewables in coming decades will also be covered.

Download this video clip.Video player: week_1_introducing_re_640.mp4
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Welcome to Week 1. In this first week we introduce you to the wide variety of renewable energy sources. But first we begin by looking at the environmental concerns that have given rise to recent interest in renewables. We also introduce you to some basic energy terms and concepts to help you understand the subject.

We begin by looking at the sun, that enormous energy source that powers most of the renewables, either directly in the form of heat, light or electricity or indirectly in the form of bioenergy, hydropower, wind or wave power. We also look at two non-solar renewables, geothermal energy and tidal power.

We then move on to look briefly at energy supply and demand, first on a world scale and then on the much smaller scale of the UK. Then we look at the problem of global climate change largely caused by emissions of planet warming greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. It’s now widely accepted that the world needs to phase out fossil fuels and phase in low and zero carbon energy sources such as renewables.

We follow this with an overview of the main solar and non-solar based renewals. We then look at current European and UK targets for increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix by 2020 to 2030. We discuss the UK government’s Electricity Market Reform measures and we look at the UK Climate Change Committee’s estimates of the contributions renewables could make to UK energy needs by 2030.

We conclude this week with a case study in the form of three short video segments of Scotland’s ambitious aim to produce 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

End transcript
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By the end of this week, you will be able to:

  • explain the concept of sustainability and how this relates to energy systems and primary energy sources
  • understand the key role of the sun as the main source of renewable energy
  • understand the concepts of energy, power, the difference between them and the essential units used to describe them.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.


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