Page last updated 04 March 2013
Renewable energy is a term that covers all forms of naturally occurring energy, including wind, solar and hydro energy. These natural energy sources won't run out and can be used to generate electricity in order to reduce our dependence on non-renewable sources, such as gas and coal.
There is a limited supply of non-renewable energy sources in the world. Using renewable energy not only reduces our dependence on scarce and expensive fossil fuels like gas and oil, but it also helps us to reduce our carbon footprint and take better care of the environment.
It's now easier than ever to make use of renewable energy in your home, especially if you invest in a solar PV system. These systems use solar panels on your roof to absorb the sun's energy and convert it into electricity for your home.
A solar PV system can reduce your carbon footprint, bring down your energy bills and make you money. Systems are capable of generating enough energy to cover up to 75% of your annual electricity consumption, meaning that you could save thousands of pounds over the life of your system through lower energy bills.
Under the government's Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme, you get paid for every kW of electricity that you generate from your solar panels. If your solar PV system is connected to the National Grid, you can also sell your surplus power back to your energy company. Rates of payment vary - you can find out more in our Solar Panel Earnings guide.
A typical solar panel system costs around £6,500 to install, and it can take several years for energy bill savings and FIT payments to return your investment. You can find out more using our Solar Panel Costs guide.
There are many different ways to get funding for a solar PV system, including specialist loans and the government's new Green Deal - this is a form of loan that is paid back through a slight increase in your energy bills. There's also the possibility that you could get solar panels fitted for free, although this option will not suit everyone. Take a look at our guide to Free Solar PV Installation for more information.
Before you can qualify for FIT payments, you need to get an Energy Performance Certificate for your home. Your ability to maximise the benefits of a solar PV system can depend on a number of other factors - you can find out more about these in our other solar PV guides.