UK set to miss renewable energy target despite breaking records

Despite 2018 being another record year for renewable generation, official figures on energy consumption across the UK last year suggest that national 2020 renewable energy targets will be missed.

UK set to miss renewable energy target despite breaking records

One-third of the electricity produced in the UK in 2018 was renewable

The latest set of energy figures released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showed the UK’s production of electricity in2 018 was up 2.9% on 2017, driven by growth in oil, wind, solar, bioenergy, and waste.

Although coal reached a record low and declined 25% while natural gas fell 3.8%, overall fossil fuel production increased. 

Illustrating the mixed picture, the UK’s overall emissions fell by 9.1 million tonnes, a year-on-year 2.4% decrease, which was the result of more renewable electricity sources. Renewables made up 33% of electricity in 2018, which was up from 29.2% in 2017.

Yet fossil fuels still make up 79.4% of the overall energy supply while renewables still only account for 11% of the final consumption. The UK target is for that figure to be 20% by 2020 and although each year sets new records for renewables, the pace of change isn’t fast enough, currently sitting at 12% increase year on year between 2017 and 2018.

Primary energy consumption was nearly unchanged on 2017 but on a temperature adjusted basis primary energy consumption was down 1.1% continuing the downward trend of the last ten years.  UK temperatures were broadly similar, while there was an increase in heating degree days compared to 2017.

Final energy consumption rose by 1.1% as demand for heating increased during February and March 2018 with temperature adjusted final energy consumption up by 0.2% on 2017 levels, as a result of the ‘”Beast from the East” weather.

In March, BEIS revealed that preliminary UK emissions data for 2018 showed the UK has now reached the same levels recorded in 1890, having fallen 3% last year.

Renewables investment

The news follows the Government’s long-term commitment to offshore wind farms which have seen significant funding in the previous few years.

Most recently, a 10-year, £100m industry-funded programme has been launched – called the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP) – to spur the growth of the UK’s offshore wind sector and benefit UK businesses.

The OWGP acts as part of the recent Sector Deal, penned between industry and the Government, which will see at least 30GW of offshore wind installed in the UK by 2030 – generating a third of the UK’s electricity as result and increasing UK business contributions to the nation’s offshore content from 48% to 60%.

The latest figures also come after it was revealed a record 11 million people globally are employed in the renewable sector, according to the latest set of official figures on the sector.

James Evison

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