2017 shaping up to be another good year for UK renewables

In the first three months of 2017 renewables set another new record by generating a quarter of all electricity used in the UK according to official records published last week

New data from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed that renewables powered 26.6 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs between January and March 2017, a one per cent rise on last year’s figures and the highest ever level for quarterly production.

Onshore wind led the charge, with production up an impressive 20% on last year thanks to increased capacity, although offshore wind saw production dip by two per cent due to lower wind speeds. Hydro production fell 15 per cent due to low rainfall levels, but solar soared 16% to 1.7TWh which like onshore wind has seen an increase in capacity in the last year.

Understandably the renewable energy industry was buoyant when the news of another record broken was circulated.

“Renewable energy is a mainstream technology, which is cheaper and more advanced than ever,” RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said in a statement. “Our innovative industries have matured to the point where we now reliably provide over 25 per cent of the UK with clean, sustainable power.”

Scotland in particular boasted a strong performance. Generation rose 13 per cent compared to the same period last year to hit record levels, while capacity soared 16 per cent.

“Scotland’s total installed renewable capacity – that’s the amount of renewable electricity we are capable of producing – now stands at 9.3GW – four times what it was only a decade ago,” Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish government’s Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, said in a statement. “These statistics reinforce our country’s reputation as a renewable energy powerhouse and are a vindication of the Scottish government’s energy policy.”

The increase in capacity for traditional renewable technologies will start to plateau now due to reductions in subsidies so these records are likely to hold for longer than they have been over the past few years.

There are very few new developments in the pipeline so although 2018 may see more increases due to 2017 new installations after that we can expect stagnation at best. At present alternative technologies do not yet boast the large scale capacity increases that onshore wind and solar can, nor has the costs seen the reduction those two more mature technologies have.

Without a plan to combat this we are facing a period of uncertainty as we are obliged to reduce our carbon emissions but without further growth in renewables meeting such targets will be very difficult.

The most obvious answer is to stimulate the onshore wind and solar industries but even at today’s lower costs that will require new subsidies. With that unlikely other projects, policies and ideas must be implemented as quickly as possible so we can achieve our targets and more importantly create a safer environment for all of us to live in.

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