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Interview – Statkraft and the Future of Renewable Energy

Richard Mardon, Head of UK Development at Statkraft, Mer’s parent company, shines a light on the importance of renewable energy.

renewable energy

Statkraft is Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy. Founded in 1895, the Norwegian State-owned organisation develops, builds, and operates hydro, solar, wind, gas and biomass assets globally. In the UK, Statkraft is the leading provider of Power Purchase Agreements and has invested £1.4 billion in the UK’s renewable energy infrastructure.

Richard Mardon, Head of UK Development at Statkraft, spoke to Mer about the role renewable energy plays in combatting climate change, how the UK is performing in regard to renewable energy, and his industry predictions for the renewable energy sector.

Renewable Energy and Climate Change

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy comes from sources that occur naturally and will never run out, like the sun, wind, or water. These generate energy that can be converted into electricity to power our businesses and homes, and importantly, this electricity does not produce carbon (other than the small amounts used in the building and maintenance of the projects). At Statkraft here in the UK, our activities cover sun, wind, water and beyond, but you won’t be surprised to hear me say, as someone who heads up new projects, we need to build more, and build quickly if the UK is to hit its net zero targets.


How important is renewable energy to the global effort towards protecting our planet?

It’s hard to emphasise just how important renewable energy is. In the past, we’ve been used to generating power by burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. These produce incredibly harmful emissions which are released into our atmosphere and created a global warming of our planet.

A warmer summer in the UK may be welcomed by some, but the knock-on effect in many parts of the world is catastrophic.

But I think we’ve all become much more aware of the impact of extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and wildfires, and how they’re causing destruction and devastation to people, homes, wildlife, food supply, economies – the list is endless. These are becoming more common and more severe. It’s anticipated that climate change will displace 1.2 billion people by 2050, costing the UK economy alone up to £20 billion each year, according to a 2022 government report. These are scary numbers.

And of course, few of us have escaped the huge increases in energy prices during 2022, caused primarily by conflicts overseas, which has brought into sharp focus our reliance on energy imported from abroad. So, switching away from fossil fuels to home-grown carbon-free renewable energy really is a no-brainer.

statkraft wind farm

Statkraft wind turbines at Baillie Wind Farm.

Renewables In The UK

How is the UK performing in terms of renewable energy generation/use at present?

I think we’re doing well, but as a developer of renewable energy infrastructure in the UK, we need to build more to get those figures even higher. If you look at the most recent UK Government figures, renewables accounted for 38% of electricity generation during the second quarter of 2022 – higher than the same period in 2021. Records are being broken regularly with zero carbon generation outstripping fossil fuels year-on-year. These trends will only improve as we push closer to the UK’s target of net zero by 2050.


The UK Government announced in October 2021 that all the UK’s electricity is to come from clean energy sources by 2035. Is this achievable?

Unfortunately, the planning system in the UK currently does not make it easy to roll out more renewables. There’s a seven-year timeframe to develop a wind farm, which is simply too long, particularly if we want to make a tangible difference at pace! The process must be streamlined with less administration and greater resource given, mindful too to work closely and in partnership with the local communities when we build our projects.

There’s also an education issue here. A small, but vocal, number of politicians are anti solar, arguing that the land should be used for food production instead. Solar projects only take up a tiny proportion of UK land, and increasingly politicians are out of step with public opinion, which consistently shows widespread support for renewable energy.

"it’s important to remind people that if we didn’t have the existing renewables here in the UK, home energy bills would be even higher than they currently are because we would have had to import more gas"

It’s also important to remember how important the wider energy infrastructure is. Alongside projects, we need a modern grid that has the capacity for renewables to be added to our energy networks in a timely manner with mechanisms in place to ensure consistency of supply.

So, there are certainly challenges, but we’re working very closely with trade bodies and Government to improve the system. We’ve heard more positive noises from Ministers recently, particularly around onshore wind in England, and the classification of agricultural land for solar development. But of course, we need to see more details before determining whether this will mean rolling out renewables becomes easier.


Could transitioning to renewable energy help British consumers and mitigate the possibility of future energy crises like the one we are currently facing?

Absolutely, and it’s important to remind people that if we didn’t have the existing renewables here in the UK, home energy bills would be even higher than they currently are because we would have had to import more gas.

In recent research that we commissioned, we found very strong concerns about rising energy costs, and a desire for more energy independence. The majority of people surveyed said they wished the UK had started investing in renewable energy a long time ago. By transitioning to renewable energy, British consumers can be protected from market volatility and spiralling costs.

The Future Of Renewables

What are your industry predictions for the renewable energy sector?

According to Statkraft’s Low Emissions Scenario, which maps the projected growth of the industry, it’s the growth of solar power which is especially notable. This is directly linked to the war in Ukraine as European countries actively seek to reduce their dependency on Russian gas and increase their renewable energy ambitions. Solar is an obvious choice given its low development costs, speed of deployment, low impact, and low maintenance.

Statkraft’s view is that we don’t have to choose between solving the ongoing energy crisis or the climate crisis. The solution to both crises is the same – more renewable energy and more efficient energy use. For many countries, transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy also increases their energy self-sufficiency. Something that perhaps wasn’t at the forefront of many people’s minds until 2022, but the war has thrown into sharp focus how reliant many countries are on overseas supplies of energy.