Report: UK ‘wasted’ enough wind energy to power 1.2 million homes this winter

Pictured: Scotland's Whitelee wind farm

New analysis from consultancy Stonehaven, on behalf of energy storage developer Highview Power, claims that the UK wasted enough wind power between October 2022 and January 2023 to provide energy for 1.2 million UK homes. Over the same timeframe, the analysis claims that the UK important £60bn in gas.

The analysis studied Ofgem statistics for household electricity use, grid-scale estimates from a 2022 Aurora study, and wind estimates based on balancing markets bid volumes published by Elexon.

Highview Power found that low-carbon power accounted for 82.5% of the UK’s electricity generation between 27 December to 9 January. However, the UK also experienced a dunkelflauteover the winter months, which means that while cold, the country experienced little to no wind but still needed energy for heating.

Between October 2022 and January 2023, the UK was unable to store as much as 1.35 TWh of wind during peak conditions, enough to power 1.2 million homes. This wind could’ve been used to power homes during cold days with no wind.

Highview Power claims that the UK instead had to rely on £60bn of foreign imports of gas. Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal the UK imported nearly £20bn of gas in 2021 as a whole, a 312% increase on the £4.8bn from 2020.

Highview Power’s chief executive, Rupert Pearce said: “Renewable energy storage is essential to powering a cleaner, cheaper, always-on Britain. By capturing and storing excess renewable energy, which is now the UK’s cheapest, most secure and most abundant form of energy, we can power Britain’s homes and businesses with renewable green energy, taking millions of tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere and ending a culture of reliance on expensive foreign imports.

“Long-duration energy storage can underpin the UK’s world leading position on renewables, accelerate the energy transition, create thousands of British clean energy jobs and skills, cut UK consumer bills and reduce our dependence on foreign gas.”

Renewables are currently the cheapest form of electricity in the UK, at £60 per MWh, compared to gas imports which peaked at more than £3,000 per MWh last year.

Wind worries

The claims from Highview Power arrive on the same day that industry body RenewableUK warned that current planning processes for onshore wind projects are stifling capacity and hindering progress towards the nation’s wind targets.

RenewableUK confirmed that a total of 3,511MW of new wind capacity was added last year – enough to power more than 3.4 million UK homes a year. Despite a record-breaking year for offshore wind – with three major new projects adding 3,193MW of new capacity in 2022 – onshore projects are lagging behind.

The research found that 10 new onshore wind projects were installed in 2022, adding 318MW and powering a further 209,000 homes. However, this is less than the 370MW added the previous year.

In response, the industry is calling for a reform of the planning system in order to scale up both onshore and offshore projects. The Government’s Energy Security Strategy sets out a new target to decide on offshore planning applications in 12 months, with some projects still taking more than four years under current planning processes.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail said: “The latest figures show we made terrific progress in installing a record amount of new offshore wind capacity last year. However, we still need to ensure that the glacial pace of the consenting process is stepped up significantly to stay on track for the quadrupling of offshore capacity that the Government wants to see by 2030 as a key step in strengthening the UK’s energy security.

“In all parts of the UK, including Scotland, investors are highlighting the planning system as a major block on developing onshore new wind farms. Onshore wind is one of our cheapest sources of new power and the Government’s own polling shows that four-fifths of the public support it. But outdated planning rules and lack of resources in planning authorities mean progress and investment are being held back.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie