Great Leap Forwards for UK Renewable Energy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced figures this week which showed that the amount of energy being produced from renewable sources has increased significantly. The figures were produced as part of the Energy Trends and Quarterly Energy Prices analysis which can be found here. Indeed in 2011 11% of the UK’s electricity demand was met from renewable generators.

The figures released particularly emphasised the great strides being made by the Scottish renewables industry. For example in the first quarter of 2012 4,590 GWh (Giga-Watt hours) of electricity was produced by renewable generation. This was in comparison to the 3155 GWh generated in the first quarter of 2011. In total 13,735 GWh of renewable energy was produced in 2011. This is an increase of 44.3% on 2010 and a whopping 97.3% increase in 2006 levels. Approximately 35% of Scotland’s total electricity demand in 2011 was produced by renewable generation. This is in excess of the Scottish Government’s target for the year, which was 31%.

Furthermore the figures demonstrated that in the financial year 2011/12 £1.7 billion of new renewable energy projects were completed in Scotland; helping to create over 4,400 new jobs. Scotland also has a higher level of projected investment in the renewables sector in terms of both finance (£8 billion) and jobs (3313) than anywhere else in the UK.

The publication of these figures was met with near unanimous enthusiasm from both government and industry. DECC Energy Minister Charles Hendry stated:

“Today’s statistics show a clear increase on the first quarter of last year across all renewables – with rises in wind, hydro, solar and bioenergy generation.

“Alongside a 36% increase in renewables capacity in the last 12 months, this shows that the UK is powering forward on clean and secure energy and is clearly a very attractive place to invest.”

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing released the following statement:

“These figures show that renewable energy generation in Scotland is going from strength to strength.

“The increase of 45.5 per cent in renewable output in quarter one 2012 compared to quarter one 2011 is particularly encouraging when you consider that 2011 saw the highest output from renewable energy to date.

“We are seeing great progress towards our goal of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

“Scotland has astounding renewable energy potential, and the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring every community in Scotland benefits from the opportunities of renewable energy.

“Projects representing £750 million of investment were switched on in 2011, with an investment pipeline of £46 billion. Industry figures show 11,000 people are employed in renewables in Scotland already, a figure which is set to grow. And since the turn of the year, we have seen Gamesa invest in Leith creating around 800 new jobs, the Green Investment Bank being headquartered in Edinburgh and Samsung Heavy Industries  announcing  it will base its £100 million European offshore wind project in Methil, creating up to 500 jobs. Renewable energy is already delivering jobs, investment and opportunities for the people of Scotland.

“Scotland is a genuine world leader in green energy and our targets reflect the scale of our natural resources, the strength of our energy capabilities and the value we place on creating new, sustainable industries.”

Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables observed:

“These latest figures show yet again that renewable energy is becoming an ever important part of our energy mix.

“Renewable electricity sources – mainly onshore wind but also hydro, biomass and other technologies – are delivering power to homes and businesses across Scotland. Each time you boil a kettle, more and more of that electricity will have been generated from a renewable source such as a wind farm.

“Not only does the renewables industry now employ more than 11,000 people in Scotland, it’s helping to reduce our carbon emissions, tackle climate change and insulate us from volatility in the gas market which has been responsible for the major hikes in energy bills over the last few years.”

Dr Gordon Edge, director of policy at RenewableUK observed that “the release of these figures provides a powerful indication that green growth  is beginning to take hold.

“Wind is working, and providing an increasing share of our electricity supply. While the wind speeds in the first quarter of this year have been slightly higher than average, the industry is working to increase the capacity of our wind fleet, to help make sure we make the best use of Britain’s top-class wind resource. At the same time, the investment we’re making in wind power is generating over half a billion pounds of economic activity in the UK from onshore wind alone.”

The publication of these figures not only provides a boost to the renewable energy industry and to government, it also serves to outline not just what renewable energy can achieve for the UK in the future but what it is achieving now.