How will these resources help you? 

The government has an obligation to meet net zero by 2050, and renewable energy is expected to play a central role in achieving this. Students are introduced to renewable techniques at KS3, if not before, but is net zero as realistic as it seems? These resources will help you assess the viability of moving away from fossil fuels and adopting large-scale renewable programmes. While books on the topic remain limited, those listed all have different takes on renewable energy, from its technical feasibility to the geopolitical tensions it creates. It is important that students can assess this future of renewables as part of the energy mix, particularly for GCSE units on Natural Resources and A-Level units on ‘Energy Security’ and ‘Energy Pathways’. 

The transition to renewables

Renewable Energy: Can it Deliver?

by David Elliot, published by Polity Press, (2020), 9781509541638

The ideal starting point. The writer conducts a readable analysis on the viability of transitioning from fossil fools to renewables. Chapters 2 and 3 cover this well, focusing on the transition and future technologies. This book is much needed, as on learning about climate change, students (and the public) often pin their hopes on renewables such as wind and solar power. But these must be appraised to explore whether these can power industrialised economies. Chapter 5 ‘The Limits of a Sustainable Future’ addresses this well. While rigorous and authoritative, the book is very readable, and would be of value to A-Level students when tackling any unit on Climate Change, Sustainability or Energy Pathways.

The changing geopolitics of energy

The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations

by Daniel Yergin, published by Penguin, (2021), 9780141994635

This book takes a more geopolitical and economical approach to the issue, with energy’s role in climate change shaping geopolitical discussions. Many A-Level specifications now contain a Superpowers Geography unit. This book would support students with this as well, with the first three chapters dedicated to the USA, Russia and China. The book covers energy history, the current situation, and, more importantly, future direction in the quest for renewables. The last chapter of the book is of particular interest as it addresses the transition’s impact on developing countries and focuses more on renewables as part of the changing global energy mix. The book’s description states that it brings ‘realism to debates over the energy transition’.

Hydrogen’s role in our energy future

The Future of Energy: Hydrogen - Hope or hype? Hydrogen in the future energy system

by John Armstrong, published by Energy Technology Publishing, (2021), 9781838388645

This book explores the use of hydrogen in the future energy mix. Part 4 onwards covers the use of hydrogen in energy, how it fits in and where we go from here. The book’s reviews all have one thing in common, the accessibility and readable nature of the book, considering the complex topic. The unbiased account takes you through the whole pathway from production to consumption. The writer states the book was written not to promote but to spark ideas, which is ideal for stimulating student curiosity in tackling energy insecurity and the transition to low carbon alternatives.

An overlooked source of power

This Overlooked Energy Source Could Supply 50% Of Electricity

by CNBC, published by YouTube, (2021)

This video gives a clear account of the benefits of geothermal energy. 0.1% of the earth’s heat could meet our energy needs for the next two million years. Yet geothermal energy is still in an embryonic state, consisting of 0.4% of the global energy mix. The animations are clear and informative, and excellent at supporting student understanding. 

Renewables, but at what cost?

The Rare Metals War: the dark side of clean energy and digital technologies

by Guillaume Pitron, published by Scribe UK, (2021), 9781912854264

This book is very critical of the green energy sector. Its key message is that by moving away from fossil fuels, our ‘utopian’ vision of a world of renewables is setting us up for a new dependency on rare metals such as cobalt, gold and palladium. These are essential elements in electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines. With this comes the conflicts involved in large-scale mining and geopolitical costs. Students may well be aware of China’s role in Africa. This is a prime example, with China already dominating the market and threatening the energy security of countries that adopt large-scale renewable programmes. An interesting take on the future of renewable energy that challenges the positivity of some of the other resources listed.  

Audiovisual clip

Weather World - Adapting to solar farming

published by BBC, (2021)

This clip explores solar farming as implemented in a farm in Kent, and criticism received by this form of renewable energy exploitation.

Further materials

New plans to make UK world leader in green energy (Press release), published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, (2020) Access this resource
Renewable electricity growth is accelerating faster than ever worldwide, supporting the emergence of the new global energy economy (Press release), published by the International Energy Agency, (2021) Access this resource
David Newell is Head of Geography at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex. He has held the GA’s Secondary Geography Quality Mark since 2015, and has worked as a Specialist Leader in Education, advising schools on improving their Geography provision.

Text © David Newell, 2022.