The Future of Renewable Energy in the UK

Renewable energy in the United Kingdom can be divided into production for electricity, heat, and transport.

From the mid-1990s, renewable energy began to contribute to the electricity generated in the United Kingdom, building on a small hydroelectric generating capacity. This has been surpassed by wind power, for which the UK has large potential resources.

Interest has increased in recent years due to UK and EU targets for reductions in carbon emissions, and commercial incentives for renewable electricity such as the Renewable Obligation Certificate scheme (ROCs) and Feed in tariffs (FITs), as well as for renewable heat such as the Renewable Heat Incentive. The 2009 EU Renewable Directive established a target of 15% reduction in total energy consumption in the UK by 2020.

In 2019, renewable production generated 37.9% of total electricity.

2019

Renewable energy in the United Kingdom can be divided into production for electricity, heat, and transport.

From the mid-1990s, renewable energy began to contribute to the electricity generated in the United Kingdom, building on a small hydroelectric generating capacity. This has been surpassed by wind power, for which the UK has large potential resources.

Interest has increased in recent years due to UK and EU targets for reductions in carbon emissions, and commercial incentives for renewable electricity such as the Renewable Obligation Certificate scheme (ROCs) and Feed in tariffs (FITs), as well as for renewable heat such as the Renewable Heat Incentive. The 2009 EU Renewable Directive established a target of 15% reduction in total energy consumption in the UK by 2020.

In 2019, renewable production generated 37.9% of total electricity.

2020

Renewable energy made up almost half of Britain’s electricity generation in the first three months of the year, with a surge in wind power helping to set a new record for clean energy.

The government’s official data has revealed that renewable energy made up 47% of the UK’s electricity generation in the first three months of the year, smashing the previous quarterly record of 39% set last year.

Renewable energy made up almost half the UK’s electricity generation in the first quarter
Standfirst …
percent
0%
25
50
75
100
Renewables 47
Gas 31.4
Nuclear 15.1
Coal 3.8
Oil and other 2.7
Guardian graphic | Source: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

The government’s renewable energy data includes electricity from the UK’s windfarms, solar panels and hydro power plants as well as bioenergy generated by burning wood chips instead of coal.

The “substantial increase” in the UK’s total renewable energy output was chiefly driven by a growth in electricity generated by solar panels and windfarms which climbed by more than a third over the last year, according to the government’s energy analysts.

The report added that the start up of new windfarms combined with the UK’s unusually wet and windy weather at the start of the year – particularly storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge – helped to generate record wind power generation.

Offshore windfarms powered the largest increase in renewable energy in the first quarter of the year, climbing by 53% compared with the previous year, while onshore wind generation grew by a fifth.

In total, wind power generated 30% of the UK’s electricity in the first quarter, beating the previous record of 22.3% set in the final months of 2019.

Rebecca Williams, of Renewable UK, said the renewable energy industry’s records were bound to be broken again in the years ahead as the government worked on “a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery”.

Britain last week set a new coal-free record of more than two months for the first time since coal-fired power generation began during the Industrial Revolution, following a surge in renewable energy due to bright, breezy weather and low demand during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Williams said the government’s record quarterly data showed the clean energy transition “written very large indeed” because the records had been set at the coldest time of year “when we need it most”.

The rise of renewable energy combined with a steady supply of nuclear power, which made up about 15% of the UK generation mix, drove fossil fuel power plants to a new record low in the first quarter.

Gas-fired power plants made up less than a third of UK generation in the first quarter compared with over 40% in the first months of 2019, and coal-fired power made up 3.8% of electricity generated in the UK.

The Future

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