The new UK Renewable Energy fund received a boost when it was announced that the overall subsidy has been increased by £95m to £300m. Much of this is being targeted at the less commercial arm of renewable energy including offshore wind, tidal, and wave power with the aim of advancing technology, increasing the skill base, and in the long term reducing the costs of producing energy by these methods.
More advanced and commercial technologies including onshore wind and solar will compete for £65m of the overall fund although large scale solar instillations will see its level of support reduced greatly.
A new scheme in which the remaining £235m will be auctioned to Renewable Energy development companies will guarantee a minimum price for energy generated by each technology. However due to the high costs in connecting to the mainland grid via sub-sea cables, projects on the Scottish Islands will not be included in the first round of auctions but are expected to be in the future. Subsidies for the cables are currently awaiting state aid from the European Commission.
This additional funding of £95m has been made possible due to the previous system of Renewable Obligations costing less than anticipated. Energy Secretary Ed Davey speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Glasgow stated “Average annual investment in renewables has doubled since 2010 – with a record breaking £8bn worth in 2013. By making projects compete for support, we’re making sure that consumers get the best possible deal as well as a secure and clean power sector.”
New policies being introduced include encouraging more businesses to install solar cells on their buildings after a low uptake under the previous system. Also the government want to make it easier for the cells to be moved along with the existing subsidy should any business on this type of tariff move premises.
Although we are delighted with additional funding being added to the overall pot and that new technologies will benefit greatly from it we believe that onshore wind is still the best way to increase the amount of energy generated via renewable sources and therefore reduce our reliance on carbon heavy alternatives. The technology is now cheaper and is proving time and again to be reliable.
We therefore welcome Mr. Davey’s comments when speaking on the subject “Onshore wind has been growing fast under us. It now generates around 5% of our electricity, and it’s still growing. It’s vital for climate change but also to keep energy bills down, as onshore wind is now the cheapest large scale green energy option.”
This comes at a time when wind energy broke another record in the UK. Earlier this month wind power supplied more electricity to the UK grid than nuclear. Strong gusts supplied more than 6GWs of electricity and a dip in energy from nuclear meant that wind power was the most important source of energy in the UK.
Also recently the flow of electricity from France to the UK changed direction as a surplus on this side of the channel meant we could export energy to mainland Europe. Normally the UK imports electricity from France but our recent increases in generation meant we were in a position to export rather than import. As the demand for energy, and particular renewable energy, continues to grow it is very pleasing to see us in a position where we can offload our surplus and give our economy a welcome boost.
However this provides a new challenge for our aging grid network. The interconnector that joins the UK with mainland Europe was almost at full capacity as it exported energy to France. In the UK we can expect more strong gusts; it’s in our nature, so we must ensure we are capable of supplying our entire surplus to an energy hungry Europe. For this to happen, further investment is essential.
In the UK we have the luxury of plentiful renewable energy resources therefore we must continue to improve and upgrade our systems as well as encourage new developments to ensure we fulfil our potential. The costs associated with this will look insignificant next to the rewards it will bring however we must act now as if we stand still we will be left behind by those more proactive in renewable energy generation.