Last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change released its most recent figures relating to energy data giving us a good indication as to the current state of the UK’s energy sector. Also, the UK’s decision on the fifth carbon budget was also announced which tied together nicely with the latest energy data.
The info has given us a good idea of what areas of our energy generation and distribution require more work and the extent of that. The figures released are for the first quarter of 2016.
In that period the UK renewable electricity capacity stood at 31.2GW – 3.3GW higher than the same time last year, and 0.7GW higher than the fourth quarter of 2015. The last of the large scale solar farms connected to the grid under the Renewables Obligation accounted for more than half of the new capacity added in that period.
Renewable electricity generation increased its UK share during the first quarter to 25.1%, a 2.3% increase over the same period in 2015 mainly due to increased capacity. However slower wind speeds accounted for a slight dip in onshore wind electricity generation.
The DECC also provided figures showing our progress against EU renewable energy targets. In total renewable energy accounted for 8.3% of our energy consumption in 2015 up 1.2% on the 2014 total. The EU target stands at 15% by 2020 so an increased rate is required over the final four years if we are to achieve that.
Also in the release was data relating the government’s flagship smart meter programme however the results were at best, mixed. 540,000 meters were installed by the large energy suppliers in the first quarter, up 34% on the previous quarter. The jump however has been attributed to the inclusion of an additional large supplier whose figures had not been included previously, rather than a sharp increase from existing suppliers.
Also 18,900 non-domestic smart meters were installed over the same period, a 26% decrease compared to the previous quarter.
As of the end of March 2016 the large energy suppliers now operate 2.75 million smart meters in domestic properties across the country. This represents 5.8 per cent of all domestic meters operated by large suppliers in the UK. Also there are 560,000 non-domestic smart meters, which accounts for 20% of all non-domestic meters operated by large suppliers.
As of March there are 3.6 million smart and advanced meters in the UK homes and businesses operated by both large and small scale suppliers. The UK government set its own target of having every home and small business with a smart meter by 2020 and as things currently stand have some way to go to achieve that.
The next part of the data related to emissions and for the first quarter 2016 total greenhouse gas emissions was 483 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent for the 12 months to the end of the first quarter, according to provisional estimates. The total marks a decrease of 32.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent compared to the same period in 2015.
As is the norm energy supply represented the largest chunk of emissions but also showed the great decrease over the period. This is mainly due to a vast reduction of coal use in energy generations.
Finally the data for transport showed renewable energy accounted for 4.1 % of total transport energy a fall of 0.8 compared to the same period the previous year. The EU target for renewable transport energy is 10% by 2020. As with smart meters there is some way to go.
It has yet to be made clear what impact the UK’s EU referendum vote will have on the impending targets. However it is possible, and after recent news events some may say likely, that the UK’s full exit from the EU will not have occurred by the time these targets are due to be met.
This could mean us having to pay extortionate fines in order to achieve our release. Others may be happy just to leave them as they would no longer be our problem. However regardless of where the government of that time stand on the EU, their carbon emission and renewable energy generation targets and any forthcoming fines these targets were designed with the people and creating a clean safe environment to live in.
Any government which abandons them cannot truly be said to have their people’s best interests at heart. So when the dust settles a clear policy on renewable energy generation and carbon emission reduction will be required. How long we will have to wait for that remains to be seen.