Renewables forecast to overtake fossil fuels in 2020

Fossil fuel output fell almost 7% to 131TWh

Based on current trends, the consultancy expects renewables to generate roughly 121TWh of electricity in the 2020 calendar year. By comparison, coal and gas plants are forecast to generate 106TWh in the same period.

The prediction comes after it was revealed in November that the installed capacity of renewables had already surpassed that of fossil fuels.

EnAppSys made the forecast in its latest annual energy market review. According to the report, renewables generated around 96TWh in 2018 – a more than 15% increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, fossil fuel output fell almost 7% to 131TWh.

Gas remained the largest single source of electricity, accounting for nearly 38% of generation during the year. Renewables accounted for more than 31%, nuclear for almost 20% and coal just 5%. Annual coal output has now fallen nearly 90% since 2012.

“Last year, levels of wind generation displaced conventional power stations and whilst this leaves room for baseload generation it does squeeze levels of output from other generators in the market,” said EnAppSys director Paul Verill.

“In the short term at least, wind will continue to be the primary source of renewable generation having produced a record high share of the renewables mix in 2018.

“New electrical transmissions infrastructure that came online in 2018 will increase further the contribution of renewable energy to the UK fuel mix but constraints still persist despite the investments.”

EnAppSys said the rise of renewables is forcing conventional generators to adapt to lower levels of activity and find ways of replacing the lost revenues – a situation that has been exacerbated by the recent suspension of the capacity market.

The firm said the halting of payments to generators, which are still required to meet their obligations, has added to the financial pressure they face. It warned that some may be forced to close if these payments are not resumed in 2019.

“Against this backdrop, the margins for thermal power generation fell to 2014 price levels as the impact of reduced demand, increased levels of wind generation and very competitive market dynamics placed downward pressure on profits,” Verill explained.

“This occurred despite overall market prices being 30% higher than in 2017, driven by higher gas prices and a recovery in the EU ETS carbon market.”

He continued: “This dynamic should settle down over time, but with rising competition in the market driven by the growth of renewables it will become necessary to reinstate the capacity mechanism payments or some other alternative to fill the gap created by the lost income.

“If this is not the case, it’s likely that plant closures will be necessary to remove oversupply from the system and this will lead to decreased security of supply.”

Last month the government announced its intention to resume collecting capacity payments from suppliers during the current standstill period to enable contract holders to receive deferred payments promptly if the scheme is reinstated.

Tom Grimwood

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

Comments (5)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    In some ways this is a positive thing, we can’t continue to burn a valuable resource (gas and oil) that has so many vital uses in modern life.

    But on the other hand without a reliable system to store energy or handle fluctuation in the generation ability of renewables there is an ever increasing risk of supply difficulties and the lights going out.

    Lack of investment in other technologies with better "base load" characteristics, such as hydro and tidal and even run of the river schemes, has left us with a very skewed generation capacity relying on unreliable weather. It is only a matter of time before the power goes out when the wind stops or the sun isn’t shining.

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    Well said Keiron

    It would seem that no matter how often it is repeated, there are a great number of influential individuals who cannot seem to understand that the TWh means only that electricity was generated, irrespective of demand.

    It is high time that edie newsroom took a great deal more care in this matter. To publish matter that is misleading is no help to UK plc.

    Yet again I will draw attention to the fact that the metered wind turbine generation for five consecutive days from 31 May to 5 June last year, was less than 1GW. Unmetered generation had exactly the same profile. This was from an installed capacity of some 20GW. During the 1st and 4th of June, the generation was effectively zero.

    The whole of this deficiency had to be satisfied by fossil fuel, gas and coal.

    No matter how many turbines are built, if the wind does not blow, as above, the whole of the deficiency has to met by fossil fuel. Storage capacity does not last beyond about a day, and is limited in volume.

    80% nuclear and the rest CCGT. Forget about renewables, they just cost us money, and are largely ineffective in reducing CO2.


    Richard Phillips

  3. Keiron Shatwell says:

    @Richard – 🙂 no need to be repentant someone needs to make sure the correct information is put out there rather than the very effective media spin that is put on this subject.

    You are correct, we could cover the country in solar panels, thousands of megawatts of installed capacity but we’d still get zero watts at night. Same with wind turbines when the wind is less than 10mph (or greater than 40mph for that matter).

    Moving water has power and the sooner we start harnessing all the moving water in and around our island the sooner we have a more reliable, consistent source of power. If Albi in France can harness the Tarn with a water turbine to power 10,000 homes consistently why can’t Reading do the same with the Thames? There’s a 10MW power station on the Tay so why not build more like this?
    We have huge tidal streams around the coasts that move massive amounts of water at speeds in excess of 6kts. We need to harness these sources of power more. You can buy a hydro generator for a boat that will charge your batteries at 3kts quite happily so why not scale up this technology? You could even use this kind of thing to harness the water flowing over weirs and under bridges. Every kilowatt counts and these are all reliable, consistent kilowatts too.

  4. Richard Phillips says:

    Thank you Keiron.

    There is a problem with moving water in the form of tidally connected movement. At the high and low tide times, water movement all but ceases as it changes direction. This produces four two-hour periods of slack water every 24 hours. This applies to tidal lagoon proposals, such as Swansea, as well as tidal streams.

    The tidal stream potential is also limited, the Pentland Firth is almost unique in its velocity. Suitable site are not easily found.

    There is also the matter of the amount of power to be generated. The standard power station is 1000MW, 1GW. This unit would require 100 Albi units. Power from rivers usually involves considerable drops in level in the local geography, which in the Thames valley, we do not have. The Durance gives France a lot of power, but we do not have the Alps!!!

    The boat generator I not come across, but does it not depend upon the boat moving, and this in turn upon petrol, or back to the variable wind?

    Historically, our standards of living have increased with the energy which has become available to us, and this in turn upon the density of that energy.

    Human muscle gave way to animal muscle, and to wind and water. The great step was to steam and the Industrial Revolution. The latest most dense energy to be harnessed is of course nuclear fission. Roll on fusion, but very difficult.

    But the body politic seems unlikely to see sense until the lights really do go out!

    Richard Phillips

  5. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Richard, yes there are the periods of slack water with tides but these are very, very predictable and therefore manageable. Not only that the periods of slack are not the same around the country, or even up the same stretch of sea loch.

    I live in Fort William at the end of Loch Linnhe, here we have a 3 sea loch system linked by 5 "narrows" (Connel, Ballachulish, Kinlochlevan, Corran and Loch Eil). High tide between Oban at one end and Corpach at the other differs by 9 minutes today and at Corpach we have a 2.5m range (spring tide is 4m). I use this as an example of how a system of tidal stream generation at these 5 locations would minimise the "slack" period and how on a larger scale the Grid can manage the slack. Each of these narrows has currents that can exceed 6kts at spring tide. I’m sure there are other locations around the country that have similar characteristics.

    With the rivers as long as you have sufficient flow you don’t need to have the considerable drop, although the drop does help dramatically. At Caversham Locks, Reading, the flow as recorded upstream of the Lock was between 20 to 50 cubic meters per second (Q) most days (currently 19.5Q). The weir had a 2m drop and crunching the numbers that gives around 250KW potential. I agree you’d need a lot of units to harness that and make it viable in terms of the GW we need but imagine the river as a long linear power plant and doesn’t it start to make a bit more sense?

    The towed hydro-generator you can get for a boat does rely on the boat moving through the water. And yes that does rely on the ever erratic nature of the wind but the beauty of a boat is the sails are adjustable to extract every last joule of energy from the wind regardless of direction of travel or wind (subject to the laws of physics and being "in irons"). There are several designs but all will add valuable amps to the power system on a boat, some even flip upside down and become wind generators for when you are at anchor. Now imagine the same hydro-generator(s) lowered into a fast flowing river. Instead of the generator moving through the water the water is moving passed the generator. Same effect the turbine spins and power is generated. Apply the same linear idea and a power station is born. There is a study into this exact thing for the spillways from both the Kinlochlevan and Lochaber Hydro plants owned by the Aluminium works to extract secondary hydro from this fast flowing stream.

    To help here is a link to one design –

    I agree that moving water won’t answer the problem of intermittent generation alone but the more of it we can harness the less fluctuation in power we might face in the wind/solar future that is being thrust upon the country. Currently we let millions of joules of potential energy flow through our towns and cities untapped and that to me is a waste, especially when it could be harness exactly where it is needed most.

    Let’s hope voices like yours and mine can make the body politic see sense before the lights do go out.

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