UK Renewable Electricity Generation Tops 30%, Scotland Increases By 11%

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New figures from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy published on Thursday showed that renewable energy accounted for 30.1% of the country’s total electricity generation in the first quarter, up 3% and boasting record wind generation that accounted for over half of total renewable energy generation.

The latest Energy Trends renewables update from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published this week showed that renewables’ share of electricity generation for the first quarter increased by 3.1% to 30.1% of the total, thanks to increased capacity and higher wind speeds. Renewable electricity capacity increased to a record 41.9 gigawatts (GW) at the end of the first quarter, an 11.2% increase (or 4.2 GW) on a year earlier — nearly half of which was offshore wind capacity — and a 3.2% (or 1.3 GW) increase on the immediately previous quarter. Renewable electricity generation in the UK for the first quarter reached another record of 27.9 terawatt-hours (TWh) for the quarter, an increase of 10.2%.

The biggest contributor to the record numbers was a combination of increased wind capacity and speed — both onshore and offshore.

Onshore wind generated 9.8 TWh of electricity in the first quarter, increasing by 27% (or 2.1 TWh), while offshore wind increased by 53% to 7.9 TWh. Total wind electricity generation increased by 38% to a record 17.7 TWh driven by increased capacity and higher wind speeds.

Conversely, solar PV generation decreased by 8.3% from 1.6 TWh in the first quarter of 2017 down to 1.5 TWh in the first quarter of 2018. Hydro generation similarly fell by just over a quarter to 1.4 TWh, but this was in part due to particularly high rainfall in the first quarter of 2017. Bioenergy also decreased by 18% in the first quarter, from 8.9 TWh to 7.3 TWh.

Renewables’ share of electricity generation

“These new figures show that wind power alone is generating nearly 20% of the UK’s entire electricity needs,” crowed Emma Pinchbeck, Executive Director of RenewableUK, the country’s trade body for the wind and marine sectors.

“Although that’s impressive, it’s just the start. Today’s landmark report from the Government’s official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, warns that we need to do more to reach our clean energy targets, and it recommends deploying more onshore wind because it’s the cheapest source of energy. We hope Ministers will listen to their own experts and take swift action to lift the block on future onshore projects.

“Today’s figures also show that wind generated more than nuclear in the first quarter of this year (19.1% compared to 17.9%). It’s good to see the Government announced a Sector Deal for the nuclear industry today, as that’s evidence of action on energy policy by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The offshore wind industry is also working on a Sector Deal with Government. We hope that will be agreed as soon as possible.”

Scotland also published its own figures in a separate statement, revealing that first quarter renewable electricity generation increased by 11%, or 736 GWh, with installed renewable energy capacity also increasing by 11%, or 999 MW.

Scotland also published its provisional statistics for 2017, showing that renewable electricity generation last year increased by 27% to 25,166 GWh, making 2017 a record year for renewable energy generation, accounting for approximately 69% of Scotland’s electricity consumption last year.

And much like the UK as a whole, the majority of Scotland’s renewable energy generation was made up due to an increase in wind generation, which increased in 2017 by 37%. Placing Scotland in the larger picture of its role in the UK, it accounted for approximately 25% of total UK renewable energy generation.

“These figures show that Scotland’s renewable energy sector is stronger than ever with almost exactly 1GW of new capacity installed since Q1 2017 and a strong pipeline of further projects still to be constructed,” said Scottish Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse. “I am delighted that the equivalent of an estimated 69% of Scotland’s electricity consumption was met from renewables in 2017.”

“It’s fantastic to see the transition to a renewable-led energy system powering ahead in Scotland with nearly 70% of our electricity demand met by renewables last year and significantly increased generation and capacity this year,” added Gina Hanrahan, Head of Policy at WWF Scotland. “The Scottish Government’s clear vision and target for renewable generation together with support to drive the market have made this possible”

“But if the renewable sector is to continue to grow, the UK Government must urgently provide a route to market for mature technologies like onshore wind and solar. As the Committee on Climate Change advised today, the UK Government’s failure to take advantage of the low cost, low risk options is unfairly penalising consumers who could enjoy lower energy bills.”

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Joshua S Hill

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