Back to Basics, Part 2: The Renewable Energy Transition - Pager Power
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Back to Basics, Part 2: The Renewable Energy Transition

Back to Basics, Part 2: The Renewable Energy Transition
February 26, 2024 Tori Harvey

In the second instalment of our new 2024 ‘Back to Basics‘ series, we delve into the UK’s ongoing renewable energy transition.

The Green Industrial Revolution

An energy transition is a significant structural change in an energy system in terms of supply and consumption. The first energy transition started when Great Britain began mining coal during the Elizabethan era, however, it took several centuries before fossil fuels became a universal solution to the quest for heat, light, mechanical motion, and movement. This has been followed by other major energy transitions such as the commercial discovery of crude oil, the invention of the light bulb, and the construction of the Pearl Street power generation station in 1882 [1].

At present, we are in the midst of a renewable energy transition, dubbed the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ by UK government [2]. The shift is expected to play a crucial role in halting the effects of anthropogenic climate change while furthering human wellbeing, security and sustainable development [3].

‘The success of the energy transition depends on a transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon sources by the second half of this century, reducing energy-related CO2 emissions to mitigate climate change and limit global temperature to within 1.5° of pre-industrial levels.’  [IRENA, 4]

Switching from non-renewable energy sources such as oil, natural gas, and coal to renewable energy is made possible by technological advancements and a societal push toward sustainability [5]. Wind and solar are taking centre stage, with deployment of wind and solar in the power sector accounting for approximately 84% of net electricity growth in 2022 [6]. These technologies are targeted for being the two lowest cost ways of generating clean and secure electricity [7]. Hydrogen fuel is also highlighted as the potential key to solving hard to decarbonise sectors such as air, marine, heavy-duty transport, and some energy-intensive industrial processes [4].

Renewable Energy Transition

Figure 1: Wind turbines [14]

The Transformation Challenge

Transforming energy systems at a global scale is a gradual and complex process. The transition must consider practical, cost-effective ways of installing, maintaining, and measuring low-carbon energy supplies. Sustainable development is relevant not just in terms of addressing climate change, but because the way energy infrastructure is deployed affects the wellbeing of the environment, society, and the economy, for both current and future generations. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) sets out three pillars for the transition:

  • Physical infrastructure
  • Policy and regulatory enablers
  • Skills and capacities

For example, the availability of appropriate infrastructure supports the efficient working of the market to ensure competitive prices for consumers [7]. There will inevitably be an adjustment period socially, as values and behaviours shift alongside the increasing accessibility of renewable energy and accompanying home technologies. Social science can play a role here, informing statutory and educational bodies on how to motivate and empower individuals and households to engage in a wide range of sustainable energy behaviours [8]. Part of this shift may include a greater push toward taking up careers in the field of energy, as there proves to be a shortage of skilled workers that aligns with sector growth rate and global initiatives. Alongside slowing the implementation of new developments and infrastructure, a skills shortage carries consequences such as limited innovation of new technologies, the potential for increased cost of green energy, and wider economic impact [9].

In England and Wales, the necessity for a swift energy transition is increasingly acknowledged by government policy. New developments are being driven by the recently updated energy National Policy Statements (NPS). Currently, the ambition is to achieve a fully decarbonised grid by 2035. Reliance on fossil fuels has dipped, reaching its lowest level since 1957 [10], which suggests a move in the right direction. However, consistent positive outcomes remain to be seen, with global measures such as the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) portraying significant fluctuations in progress year on year.

Outside of the IRENA pillars being developed effectively, it is crucial to consider that external drivers may also impede (or accelerate) progress. Alternative technologies such as carbon sequestration (capturing) may be favoured in some countries if there is a technological breakthrough that allows carbon to be stored on a grand scale [11]. The COVID-19 pandemic and global conflict have sent unprecedented shockwaves across the energy sector, temporarily halting the progress of the energy transition due to funds being withdrawn and redirected to safeguarding people’s health and welfare [12, 13].


Our reliance on fossil fuels putting power to our existence is a relatively new phenomenon, and one that must remain short-lived if we are to ensure the long-term welfare of the planet’s inhabitants. Whilst investments in renewable energy developments are undoubtedly accelerating; it is expected that this snowball effect will continue until global targets are met. As we approach 2030, policies may begin to tighten toward renewable development. It is almost certain that there will be a sharp increase in incentivisation for individuals to choose green career paths to support the transition.

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[1] Van Vactor, Samuel A., Historical Perspective on Energy Transitions (May 14, 2018). USAEE Working Paper. Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at: 

[2] The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution (November, 2020). HM Government. Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at:

[3] Chang, M. et al., Trends in tools and approaches for modelling the energy transition (March 2021)., Applied Energy, 290. Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at:

[4] IRENA, Energy transition outlook, Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at: 

[5] S&P Global, What is Energy Transition? (24 Feb, 2020). Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at:

[6] KPMG, Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy 2023, Accessed on: 23/02/2024, Available at:,urgency%20into%20the%20energy%20transition

[7] Department for Energy Security & Net Zero, Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy (EN-1), Accessed on: 23/02/2024, Available at:

[8] Steg, L. et al., Understanding the human dimensions of a sustainable energy transition (17 June, 2015). Personality and Social Psychology, 6, Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at:

[9] People with Energy, Skills Shortage for the Energy Industry (21 September, 2023). Accessed on: 23/02/2024, Available at:,toward%20these%20important%20sustainability%20goals

[10] Carbon Brief, Analysis: UK electricity from fossil fuels drops to lowest level since 1957 (3 January, 2024). Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at:,43%25%20and%20nuclear%2013%25

[11] Solomon, B.D. & Krishna, K., The coming sustainable energy transition: History, strategies, and outlook, Energy Policy, 39, 11, pp. 7422-7431. Accessed on: 24/02/2024. Available at:

[12] Tian, J. et al., Global low-carbon energy transition in the post-COVID-19 era (February 2022), Applied Energy, 307. Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at:

[13] Wikipedia, Energy transition, Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at: 

[14] Ockel, L. Wind turbines on brown field during sunset, Accessed on: 23/02/2024. Available at:



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