UK Registers Impressive Wind, Renewable Energy Gains

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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.

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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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