Wind industry sets new generation records, remains in line to be 'killed off'
New Government figures released on Thursday revealed record progress for the wind industry in 2014, but that success could be short-lived thanks to recent Conservative policy, industry experts warned.
The figures, from the Government’s annual Digest of UK Energy Statistics, found that wind power accounted for 19.1% of UK electricity generation, up from 14.9% in 2013.
However, the success of the technology, juxtaposed against recent subsidy cuts, prompted outrage from the wind and marine energy association RenewableUK.
RenewableUK’s director of policy Dr Gordon Edge said: “Onshore and offshore wind is delivering the lion’s share of the clean electricity we need to keep the UK powered up. But, when it comes to onshore wind, the Government is lining up this lion to be shot.
“Two-thirds of the public don’t want the onshore wind industry to be killed off –and they’ve said so in every Government opinion poll over the last three years. A clear majority are expressing their support for our most cost-effective technology which can generate significant quantities of clean electricity. The case for supporting wind, onshore and offshore, is backed up by today’s excellent generation statistics as evidence of good progress.
“In the face of this evidence, many will ask why the renewable energy sector has been bombarded by a series of punitive Government announcements ever since it took office, including scattergun retrospective changes which will force currently viable energy projects into the red.
“We can only hope that today’s statistics will help to focus minds and make the Government think again, so that they can come up with a balanced energy policy that includes encouraging investment in renewables rather than driving business away from the UK.”
This time next year?
Overall, 7% of the UK’s total energy supply (electricity, heat and fuel for transport) came from renewables – up from 5.6% in 2013. The UK needs to meet a legally binding target of 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020.
However, Joss Blamire, a senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, voiced concerns that recent Government legislation would stop the UK reaching its targets.
Blamire said: “Multiple announcements on renewables in recent weeks, and a forthcoming review of the Feed-in Tariff, have engendered a strong sense of uncertainty in the industry.
“It is crucial to remember that what was previously in place through the FiT scheme, and the RO and CfD, which support larger projects, was a trajectory to meet our targets while reducing costs.
“Any disruption to that – as we have seen through recent announcements – means that in the short term projects are at risk, in the medium term we will have less ability to cut costs, and in the long term will have less chance to reach our renewables and climate change targets.”
Efficiency heats up
The figures also recounted a succesful for for combined heat and power projects (CHP), which saved the UK £250m in fuel costs.
The savings are the equivalent of the gas bills of more than 350,000 homes, according to industry trade body Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE).
CHP integrates the production of usable heat and power (electricity), into a single process, delivering a minimum of 10% energy savings. CHP currently provides 7% of UK electricity.
An ADE spokesperson urged the Government to take further advantage of the potential savings offered by CHP.
ADE director Dr Tim Rotheray said: “The opportunity is much greater. There are hundreds more commercial and industrial sites that could benefit from generating their own heat and power locally by putting the right policy framework in place.
“A welcome tax relief implemented in 2015 is key to protecting existing industrial efficiency investments. The Government’s forthcoming Carbon Taxation review now presents a major opportunity to unlock the untapped efficiency opportunity, boost energy productivity and support UK business competitiveness."
Figure 3: CHP 1983-2014