Renewable Energy: Home and abroad

Last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change published its yearly Digest of UK Energy Statistics for 2014. Within it the statistics show that electricity generated from renewable sources increased by 21% in 2014 compared with 2013 and supplied the grid with 19% of the total electricity generated in the UK, an increase of over 4% on the previous year.

In the digest onshore wind is described as “the leading individual technology for the generation of electricity from renewable sources during 2014.” 29% of all renewable electricity supplied to the grid came from onshore wind in 2014 with offshore wind contributing 21%, meaning in total half of all renewable electricity generated in the UK in 2014 came from wind.

In turn this means that 9% of the UK’s total electricity generation in 2014 came from onshore and offshore wind combined, saving the equivalent of 13m tonnes of carbon emissions for the year.

Overall in 2014 onshore wind generation increased by 10% and offshore by 17%. Also the overall installed renewable energy capacity increase by 24% to 24.6GW. A 13% increase in onshore capacity and 22% increase in offshore contributed to this increase.

In total wind provided enough electricity to supply more than 7.5 million homes in the UK throughout the entire year. 7% of the UK’s total energy supply (electricity, heat and fuel for transport) came from renewables – up from 5.6% in 2013. The UK needs to meet a legally binding target of 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020.

For the entire year output from renewables was up by 9.3%, while nuclear and coal output were down 10% and 8.6% respectively

Speaking of the release of the Digest and the figures for 2014 Dr. Gordon Edge, Director of Policy at RenewableUK said “Onshore and offshore wind is delivering the lion’s share of the clean electricity we need to keep the UK powered up. But, when it comes to onshore wind, the Government is lining up this lion to be shot.

“Two-thirds of the public don’t want the onshore wind industry to be killed off –and they’ve said so in every Government opinion poll over the last three years. A clear majority are expressing their support for our most cost-effective technology which can generate significant quantities of clean electricity. The case for supporting wind, onshore and offshore, is backed up by today’s excellent generation statistics as evidence of good progress.

“In the face of this evidence, many will ask why the renewable energy sector has been bombarded by a series of punitive Government announcements ever since it took office, including scattergun retrospective changes which will force currently viable energy projects into the red.

“We can only hope that today’s statistics will help to focus minds and make the Government think again, so that they can come up with a balanced energy policy that includes encouraging investment in renewables rather than driving business away from the UK.”

Also published last week was the final results from the Malawi Renewable Energy Acceleration Programme (MREAP). MREAP is the single biggest Scottish Government international development programme to date with an investment of £2.3m. The project has been managed by the University of Strathclyde with the aim of providing improved electricity access to 80,000 of the country’s rural population.

Only 9% of the country’s population currently have access to the national grid making it one of the least electrified sub-Saharan countries on the continent. In rural areas this falls to less than 1%.

In regions throughout the country MREAP has improved the facilities available in schools, health clinics and households through access to sustainable energy.

The Scottish Government was asked by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to support his Sustainable Energy for All initiative which puts energy access at the centre of international development in 2012.

Humza Yousaf Minister for Europe and International Development said: “Across the developing world, a lack of access to cheap, reliable and clean energy is holding back progress. Nearly one in five people on this planet do not have access to stable modern electricity. In today’s world, this is unacceptable and a major barrier to introducing basic services in order alleviate poverty and reduce global inequality. This is something that the UN has recognised with its Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which we are proud to be a part of.

“MREAP has been tackling this problem head on by providing sustainable electricity to nearly 80,000 people. By working directly with communities to create their own solutions the programme has a strong foundation for the future and we are pleased to support further energy projects that will build on the work of MREAP. Learning from this flagship programme is publicly available to help inform the future of renewable energy in developing nations and to improve the quality of life for some of the world’s poorest people.

“The success of MREAP is a testament to the importance of the special relationship between Scotland and Malawi. A project of the scale of MREAP not only benefits people in Malawi – who now have access to life changing modern energy solutions – it also opens doors for invaluable business and education opportunities for Scotland in the future.”

More than forty five renewable energy instillations have been introduced to communities throughout Malawi with funding coming from MREAP. These include efficient cook stoves, solar pumps and solar panels for electricity, through to solar lanterns and biogas digesters. Also MREAP encouraged new energy leadership by introducing a two year postgraduate degree in renewable energy as well as an entrepreneurship fund and a detailed analysis of the potential for large scale wind energy in the country.

Co-director of the Institute for Energy and Environment at the University of Strathclyde Professor Graeme Burt: “The direct benefits that MREAP has brought to communities in Malawi by increasing access to renewable energy technologies is a real achievement that the University of Strathclyde takes pride in.

“Malawi now has a strong evidence base on which effective scaled-up programmes can be built, impacting the lives of many more families in rural Malawi through community-based solar PV or large commercial scale wind energy. And this gives evidence to the effective collaboration established between academics, government departments, NGOs, charities, and private consultancies from both Malawi and Scotland.”

Principal Officer of the Scotland Malawi Partnership David Hope-Jones said: “Whether in Scotland or Malawi, access to sustainable energy means equipped hospitals, functioning schools and thriving communities.

“The great impact of the work of MREAP and their partners in Malawi demonstrates the continuing strength and relevance of the historical ties between our two nations.

“Today, after over 150 years of partnership, 94,000 Scots and 198,000 Malawians are still working together in solidarity to address contemporary challenges and looking towards the future.”

The Scottish Government and project partners are sharing the findings from MREAP to encourage future energy projects in developing nations. All sixteen reports relating to the project now available on the University’s website as well as information of two further renewable energy projects confirmed in January as part of the 2015 Malawi Development Programme.

The MREAP is an excellent project and showcases Scotland’s renewable energy expertise. While the electricity situation in Malawi may be one of the worse, throughout the developing world many millions of people are without a regular supply of electricity. The traditional raw materials for generating electricity such as coal and gas are often too expensive as is the cost of upgrading the existing networks in these countries.

Renewable energy therefore offers a cost effective reliable alternative. It is our hope that projects like MREAP encourages other Governments, educational facilities, and developers to join forces and help bring clean sustainable energy in the form of electricity to millions of people who due to geographical and economic restraints would otherwise go without.

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