Reducing our carbon footprint

New official statistics from National Grid show that wind generated clean electricity was produced in record amounts in 2014. It generated enough electricity to power more than 6.7 million households in the UK – just over a quarter of all homes – an increase of 15% from the previous year.

All wind turbines from large wind farms to single turbines either connected directly to the grid or to local networks generated 9.3% of the UK’s total electricity supply last year, up from 7.8% in 2013.

In December a new monthly high of 14% of all UK electricity generated by wind was achieved beating the previous high of 13% set in December 2013. Also the quarterly record of 11% set in the final three months of 2103 was eclipsed in the final three months of 2014 setting a new record of 12%.

Speaking about these new statistics RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said: “It’s great to start 2015 with some good news about the massive quantities of clean electricity we’re now generating from wind, with new records being set month after month, quarter after quarter, and year on year, as we increase our capacity to harness one of Britain’s best natural resources.

“We’re now into a General Election year so we know that the political temperature is set to carry on rising over the next few months. The cost of energy has become an important political issue, so now would be a good time for voters, prospective parliamentary candidates and MPs to take account of the fact that onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewable energy we have at our fingertips.

“So if we’re serious about cutting bills and securing an indigenous supply of clean power all parties need to support it in the months ahead”.

As previously discussed 2014 was also a fantastic year for renewable energy in Scotland and new figures published last week expand on that. For example in December 2014 wind turbines alone provided around 1,279,150MWh of electricity to the National Grid, enough to supply the electrical needs of 164% of Scottish households, that’s enough for 3.96 million homes – and a record for 2014. Maximum output was on 10th December, when generation was an estimated 65,970MWh, enough to supply 6.34 million homes for the whole day – equivalent to 262% of all Scottish households and wind turbines generated enough power to supply over 100% of Scottish households on 25 out of the 31 days of December.

Analysis for the whole of 2014 found that wind turbines provided an estimated 8,958,130MWh of electricity to the National Grid, or an average of 746,510MWh each month – enough to supply the electrical needs of 98% of Scottish households, or 2.36 million homes and that wind generated enough power to supply over 100% of Scottish households during six out of the 12 months – January, February, March, October, November, and December.

Homes fitted with solar PV panels in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness enjoyed enough sunshine during June and July to generate an estimated 100% or more of the electricity needs of an average home, and 60% or more in the same four cities during March, April, May, August, and September and similar results were attained for homes with solar hot water panels with June and July achieving 100% of hot water needs and April, May, June, and August achieving 60%.

WWF Scotland’s director Lang Banks commenting on this new data said: “Without doubt, 2014 was a massive year for renewables, with wind turbines and solar panels helping to ensure millions of tonnes of climate-wreaking carbon emissions were avoided. With 2015 being a critical year for addressing climate change internationally, it’s vital that Scotland continues to press ahead with plans to harness even greater amounts of clean energy.

“December turned out to a record-breaking month for wind power, with enough green energy generated to supply a record 164% of Scottish households with the electricity they need. Even on calmer days, wind still supplied the equivalent of over a third of electricity needs of every home.

“For 2014 as a whole, on average, wind power generated enough to supply the electrical needs of 98% of Scottish households, with six months where the amount was greater than 100%. And, in the tens of thousands of Scottish households that have installed solar panels saw them meet two-thirds or more of their electricity or hot water needs from the sun during several months of the year, helping those homes to reduce their reliance on coal, gas, or even oil.”

Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy added: “We’re famous in the UK for our obsession with the weather, but how often do we see it in a positive light? At a time when the world is desperately looking for low-carbon sources of energy, the data show that clean renewables are already playing a significant and growing role in Scotland’s, and the rest of the UK’s, overall energy mix. We just need to blow their trumpet a bit more.

“Scotland is clearly leading the way when it comes to wind power. However, despite misconceptions, Scotland also has potential for sun-loving renewables too. The data clearly show that there’s plenty of sunshine to meet a significant proportion of an average family’s electricity needs for most months of the year – even during some of the winter months! With hundreds of thousands of roofs, it would make sense to tap more of the sun’s power.”

A further report from DNV-GL and backed by WWF investigated the viability of the Scottish Government’s current policy target of decarbonising the country’s electricity generation by 2030. This policy is dependent upon fully operational carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology however the report concludes that CCS is not required to decarbonise Scotland’s electricity generation and concludes that  “a renewables-based, efficient, flexible, electricity system is perfectly feasible by 2030” taking into account Scotland’s abundant renewable energy sources.

The report also calculates the cost of meeting the 2030 target with a renewable energy based system is £663m a year, a good deal less expensive than the 1.85bn cost of the CCS system. Paul Gardener, lead author of the report stated “Our technical analysis shows that a system with an extremely high proportion of renewable electricity generation located in Scotland can be secure and stable. There is no technical reason requiring conventional fossil and nuclear generation in Scotland.

“Scotland has plenty of renewables in the pipeline to cut the carbon from its power supply by 2030, particularly if we see progress on reducing electricity demand. And crucially, Scotland can continue to be an electricity exporting nation.”

The report does come with a warning though. It confirms that new policies to promote more renewable energy developments in Scotland are required if the country is to achieve the target by this method. This includes more funding, new grid connections and initiatives to reduce energy demand, all of which we have argued for on many occasions.

WWF Scotland’s Climate and Energy Policy Officer Gina Hanrahan said “The report shows that not only is a renewable, fossil-fuel free electricity system perfectly feasible in Scotland by 2030, it’s actually the safe bet,” she added. “Pursuing this pathway would allow Scotland to maintain and build on its position as the UK and Europe’s renewable powerhouse, cut climate emissions and continue to reap the jobs and investment opportunities offered by Scotland’s abundant renewable resources.

“We need to see the phasing out of conventional generation in Scotland, clarity about the future market for renewables across the UK and more emphasis on demand reduction and storage in Scotland so the vision can be achieved.”

We have often spoken of the achievements of the renewable energy industry in this country in glowing terms and how we can look upon what we have achieved so far with pride. We have also countered that by stating that it shouldn’t end here and that we must push on in order to reach our ultimate goal. The results from last year show that electricity generation from renewable sources is both proven and reliable plus the cost is continuing to fall.

Some are saying the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources last year shows that we do not need more developments but the potential reduction in carbon emissions nullifies that argument. We must reduce our carbon footprint not only to reach the targets set by the EU but because it is the right thing to do and although CCS is not a pipedream, the technology is in its infancy and as a result it is both unproven and expensive. It is the policy makers that hold the key to maintaining a long-term strategy to ensure that we reduce our carbon emissions by 2030. They must seriously consider the most suitable method for attaining this and regardless of whether it is a vote winner or not realise generating electricity from renewable sources is most reliable and cost-effective option.

Comments are closed.