UK renewables generation increases by 56% since 2012

Figures from Departments of Energy and Climate Change show renewables production increased by 56%

(Pic: Renewable UK)

By Nilima Choudhury

UK’s department of energy (DECC) released its quarterly electricity trends for the second quarter of 2012 today showing that renewables generation increased by 56%.

Total energy production during the second quarter of this year (Q2) running between April and June fell by 9.5% compared to Q2 of 2012.

DECC attributes this decline in to a fall in petroleum production as a result of the general decline and maintenance work on a number of fields. The fall in production led to a rise in net import of energy by 51%.

Between 2003 and 2012 there was a 290% increase in generation from renewables in the UK, but the fastest rates of growth were recorded in Northern Ireland which increased generation by 1,029% – almost three times more than any other part of the UK.

Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of industry association RenewableUK said in a statement: “This confirms what we have been seeing for some time, which is renewables steadily becoming more important in meeting our electricity needs, and wind being responsible for the lion’s share of the progress. That this period coincided with one of the coldest springs on record means that wind was providing this power at a crucial time.

“The fact that we have seen the record for renewables generation broken twice in the space of a few months shows for itself the progress being made in the race to decarbonise our economy and secure our future electricity supply.”

Of electricity generated in the second quarter of 2013, gas accounted for 28.5% due to high gas prices, while coal accounted for 35%.

Trends in renewable energy generation from 2003-2012 (Graph: DECC)

Nuclear generation accounted for 18.5% of total electricity generated in the second quarter of 2013, a decrease from the 21.5% share in the second quarter of 2012.

With the fall in nuclear power, the Coalition government insists the country needs new power stations to replace ageing nuclear installations. The country’s eight large nuclear stations are scheduled to close over the next 10 years, but the government says the UK needs urgently to construct new ones to keep the nation’s lights on.

Until earlier this year, according to the government, two of them would be closing in 2016: Hinkley Point B in Somerset, England, and Hunterston B in north Ayrshire, Scotland, both of which came into operation in 1976.

But confusion has arisen over the likelihood of closure of these plants because EDF successfully applied for a seven-year extension to the lives of the two stations.

Renewables boom

Oil, natural gas and coal production all fell with coal suffering the largest decline in Q2 2013 of 24% lower when compared to the same period last year.

The fall in natural gas production was due to the partial re-opening of production in the Elgin area, said DECC’s report.

Net imports of crude oil, natural gas and biomass in the second quarter of 2013 widened to 7.8 million tonnes, the second largest figure since oil production peaked in 1999. This met 45% of the UK’s demand.

Renewable energy capacity by country. (Graph: DECC)

According to a survey commissioned by the BBC this month, the public broadly supports investment in wind and solar energy systems. Of 1,035 adults interviewed, 84% were keen on more solar panels where they lived, 67% wanted more windfarms, while 47% thought building more nuclear power stations was a good idea.

In 2013 Q2, wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) generation rose 58.6% from 4.2TWh to 6.7TWh, due to increased capacity.

Offshore wind generation increased by 51%, while onshore wind generation rose by 70%.

At the beginning of this month, with the completion of the Gunfleet Sands, the UK has now installed more than 1GW of offshore wind power, which provides 2.3 million homes with energy.

At the end of 2013 Q2, solar PV, at 2.4GW, was 12% of all renewable capacity. Solar power in the UK surpassed the gigawatt mark last month, taking advantage of the stagnating European market, according to analysts at Solarbuzz.

In 2012, Scotland had 44% of the UK’s wind capacity and produced 42% of the output.

DECC’s report said final energy consumption was provisionally 1.5% higher this year than in the second quarter of 2012.

Increased energy consumption of course leads to increased energy bills, which has become a contentious and perhaps vote winning topic ahead of the 2015 general election.

Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband had this week promised his party’s commitment to decarbonising the energy mix by 2030 at the Labour party conference.

Miliband also pledged to freeze gas and electricity bills for every home and business for 20 months, should the Labour party win the election.

He said: “It’s not just about environmental care, it’s also about the jobs we create in the future,” he said.

“George Osborne [chancellor of the exchequer] says we can’t afford environmental commitments at a time like this. He’s dead wrong. We can’t afford not to have environmental commitments at a time like this.”

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