Renewables coast past coal to provide a quarter of UK electricity generation

Renewable energy sources are emerging as the dominant means of generating power and electricity in the UK, after annual Government energy statistics revealed that a quarter of all UK electricity was generated from renewables in 2015.

The figures released on Thursday (28 July), revealed that electricity generated from renewables accounted for 22% in 2015, while coal sourced 22% of the country’s electricity – an 8% fall from 2014. In total, electricity sourced from renewables was 5.5% higher than the year prior.

The renewables push was largely dominated by wind power, which accounted for just under half of the electricity generated by renewable sources. The contributions from offshore wind grew by 30% in 2015, while onshore contributions also climbed by 23%. According to the newly-established Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – which released the report – this was due to increased capacity, load factors and wind speeds.

Commenting on the figures, RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Maf Smith said: “The Government took the right decision when it announced the phasing out of coal. Now we can see renewable energy filling the gap, replacing old technology with new. 2015 was the first year that renewables outperformed coal.

“A quarter of Britain’s power is now coming from wind, wave and tidal power and other renewable energy sources. Renewables are now part of our energy mainstream, helping us modernise the way we keep the lights on by building new infrastructure for the generations to come”.

According to the figures, the electricity generated from renewables now stands at 83.6 TwH, with capacity reaching 30.5 GW. In total, low-carbon’s share of the electricity generation mix grew from 39% to a record 46%. While this was predominantly driven by renewables, the rise also reflects an increase in nuclear generation which is up to 21% of total generation.

At the same time, coal’s share of generation fell below the 100TWh threshold to 76TWh, while the share from gas fell by less than 1% to 100TWh.


The year ahead

Ahead of the closure of the Renewables Obligation later this year, solar PV deployment in the UK increased by 70%, but still only accounted for 9% of renewable power production. However, analysis published by PwC and the Solar Trade Association (STA) has warned that solar deployment for 2016 is expected to shrink from the 1GW UK average of the last five years to less than 300MW.

Also commenting on the figures was Good Energy’s chief executive Juliet Davenport, who said: “The idea that renewables are an unimportant part of our energy mix is now firmly a myth. They are leading the way when it comes to making the UK more energy secure in the future

“With renewables by far the most popular choice for the British public, this new government needs to look at this success and take the lead in keeping us on the path to decarbonisation.”

The data re-affirms the news published in March by the now defunct DECC, which claimed that it was a record-breaking year for renewable energy generation. But, having dropped out of the top 10 of EY’s respected international league table on renewable energy for the first time since its inception 12 years ago, 2016 will act as a “make or break” year for the UK’s renewables sector.

Matt Mace

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