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Published on July 1st, 2012 | by Andrew


UK Registers Impressive Wind, Renewable Energy Gains

July 1st, 2012 by  


Controversial cuts in its solar PV power feed-in tariff notwithstanding, renewable energy’s share of UK electricity output surged 39% higher to 11.1% in Q1 over the past year, according to the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), as the British Isles continue to make rapid headway in meeting a goal of 15% renewable energy by 2020, Bloomberg reported this past week.

Overall, so-called “low carbon generation” made up 28.4% of UK electricity generation in Q1 as compared to 26.6% in the year-ago period, according to DECC, while total electricity output dropped 3.4%. End-user electrical power consumption fell 2.3%, with domestic use expanding 2%, service sector consumption up 3.1%, and industrial use down 8.6%.

Onshore wind was the fastest growing source of electrical power for the UK overall in Q1, jumping 51% to 3.55 Terawatt-hours (TWh), while offshore wind total rated capacity increased 49.8% to 1.49 TWh. Hydro power production also registered impressive gains, rising 43.5% to 1.86 TWh.



UK Electrical Power: Sources and Uses

DECC laid out sources and uses of electricity in the UK in Q1 2012, along with year-over-year percentage changes in a table:

Electricity Generated from (in TWh):           

  • Coal:  42.05 +19.7
  • Gas: 26.68 -30.4
  • Nuclear: 17.20 -11.6
  • Renewables: 11.08 +39.0
  • Total: 99.51 -3.4

Supplied to:

  • Industry: 23.94 -8.6
  • Domestic: 33.39 -2.0
  • Other Final Consumers: 28.88 +3.1
  • All: 86.21 -2.3

DECC’s full set of Q1 “Electricity Statistics” is available on its website.

Overall, sources of UK electricity generation for Q1 2012 in percentage terms looks like this, according to DECC:

  • Coal: 42.3%
  • Gas: 26.8%
  • Nuclear: 17.3%
  • Renewables: 11.1%
  • Other: 1.3%
  • Oil: 1.2%

Coal-fired power output rose sharply, up 19.7%. Gas’ share dropped sharply, to 30.4%, as domestic UK gas production fell 14.1%, meaning that UK power suppliers had to turn to more expensive imports. These also declined, dropping 6.3% compared to Q1 2011, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports accounting for 23.2% of the total.

Norway (60%) and Qatar (23%) were the two biggest suppliers of UK gas imports. UK power suppliers turned to coal instead, with Q1 coal demand totaling 18.2 million metric tons, a rise of 15.8% from a year ago.

Renewable Energy in the UK

Sources of renewable energy in the UK in Q1 2012, along with percentage changes, looked like this, according DECC:

Renewable electricity generation

  • Onshore wind: 3.55 +51.1
  • Offshore wind: 1.49 +49.8
  • Hydro: 1.86 +43.5
  • Solar PV, wave and tidal: 0.17 +877
  • Thermal renewables (inc. co-firing): 4.00 +20.9
  • All renewables: 11.08 +39.0

Overall, UK renewable energy capacity totaled 13 GW at the end of Q1, 36.1% higher than a year ago., with renewable electricity generation capacity totaling 12.3 GW, up 33%.

In addition to impressive gains in Q1 onshore wind generation (+68%), offshore wind generation (+45%), and hydro power (+56%, due to high winter rainfall), thermal renewables, including such things as co-firing of biomass, rose a sharp 20.9% to 4 TWh. Despite the controversial elimination of its solar PV feed-in tariff (FiT), solar PV, wave and tidal power capacity increased a whopping 877%, though accounted for a comparatively small 0.17 TWh.

Looking at heat and transportation, renewable heat increased 5% in 2011, to 1,220 kilotonnes oil equivalent (ktoe), while renewable biofuels for transportation dropped 7% to 1,127 ktoe. Overall, renewable transport fuels accounted for 3.5% of road transport fuels last year in the UK.

DECC’s preliminary estimate of the overall share of energy consumption supplied by renewable sources was 3.8% in 2011, an increase of 0.6 percentage points from 2010’s 3.2%. 
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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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