Provisional figures published by the UK Government on Thursday show that renewable energy sources generated a record amount of electricity in 2018, increasing by 11.8% over 2017 levels, led by a record year for wind energy generation which provided 17.1% of the UK’s electricity.
The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its quarterly “Energy Trends” reports this week revealing a host of findings from 2018 and the most recent months and quarters. Prime among the findings was total electricity generation across the UK in 2018 which fell by 1.4% from 2017 levels. Further, and even more importantly, coal, gas, and nuclear generation all saw declines in 2018 which were offset by increases in renewable energy generation — primarily from bioenergy, wind, and solar.
Specifically, while natural gas remains the leading form of electricity generation in the UK with 39.4%, renewable electricity generation increased to a record high of 33.3% thanks to a total renewable electricity capacity of 44.4 GW at the end of 2018, a 9.7% increase on 2017 which saw 3.9 GW added in 2018. Low-carbon generation (basically adding nuclear to renewables) also reached a record high of 52.8%.
Coal generation dropped to a record annual low of only 5%.
Wind energy was the standout generating technology last year, accounting for 17.1% — made up of 9.1% from onshore wind and 8% from offshore wind, both representing a new annual record.
“These record-breaking figures demonstrate the unstoppable momentum for renewables, with spectacular global cost reductions in onshore and offshore wind, as well as battery storage, being reported this week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance,” crowed Emma Pinchbeck, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK, the country’s renewable energy trade body representing wind and marine power. “Wind power in the UK is driving a transformation in energy, to clean, affordable and flexible power that works hand in hand with exciting technologies of the future like storage and EVs.
“We need Government to fully recognise that renewables are the future in our energy policy – from fair markets for flexible power and innovation funding for new technologies, to removing the obstacles in the way of our cheapest form of generation: onshore wind.”
Unsurprisingly, therefore, Scotland (one of four countries which make up the United Kingdom) also saw renewable electricity levels hit record highs, with the equivalent of 74.6% of gross electricity consumption coming from renewable energy sources.
Specifically, total electricity generation in Scotland grew by 6.1% to 26,708 gigawatt-hours (GWh). The country’s renewable energy capacity grew to 10.9 GW in 2018 through the addition of new wind generation, which added 2.1 TWh of additional generation in 2018. Offshore wind, specifically, generated 1,369 GWh in 2018.
“These figures show Scotland’s renewable energy sector continues to go from strength to strength,” said Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse. “Last year, we were able to meet the equivalent of 74.6% of our electricity demand from renewable sources. During periods of low demand in Scotland, we were able to export record levels with a net 24,379 GWh of electricity being exported in 2018.
“Last year we saw the growing importance of offshore wind with capacity and generation both more than doubling compared to 2017 – with further projects under construction.
“These are incredible figures for 2018 with three-quarters of Scotland’s demand met by renewables, and we also doubled exports in a year,” added Gina Hanrahan, Head of Policy at WWF Scotland. “Renewables play a vital role in powering the country, creating jobs and reducing climate emissions. With the urgency of tackling climate change ever clearer, we should celebrate and build on this progress.
“But if Scotland’s full renewables potential is to be unleashed to power our economy, heat our homes and charge our cars, then the UK Government needs to unlock support for cheap, popular and effective renewables like onshore wind.”
“This increase means Scotland is now home to exactly a quarter of the UK’s renewable electricity capacity, with wind power an increasingly important part of our contribution,” continued Joe Mitchell, Policy Officer at Scottish Renewables. “Renewable energy drives investment and creates jobs, as well as mitigating climate change by reducing the amount of fossil fuels the UK must burn to keep the lights on.
“With the right support from governments in both London and Edinburgh our industry, which already employs 17,700 people in Scotland, can continue to deliver these benefits as the shift to a clean, smart energy system gathers pace.”
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