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Record start to 2020 for renewable generation

Offshore wind provided a record 13.2TWh in Q1 2020.

Offshore wind provided a record 13.2TWh in Q1 2020.

In Q1 of 2020, renewables generated a record 47% of the UK's electricity, according to new figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Together, wind, solar, hydro and other renewables smashed last year's total of 35.9% thanks to increased capacities and higher wind speeds through February when a number of storms battered the UK. By the end of March, renewable capacity was 47.4GW, an increase of 5.2GW from the same period the year previously.

BEIS’s quarterly report showed that wind generated 30% of the UK’s power between January and March, with 14.7% from onshore wind and 15.2% from offshore. This beat the previous wind generation high, recorded in Q4 of 2019 when wind generated 22.3%.

The new record generation represents 40.8 TWh, beating 32.5TWh in Q4 2019, with wind again the largest contributor.

In Q1, wind generated 26TWh, jumping significantly from 19.4TWh in Q4 2019. Of this, onshore wind provided 12.8TWh (beating the previous record of 9.8TWh in Q1 2019) and offshore wind provided 13.2TWh (beating its previous record of 10.2TWh in Q4 2019).

Overall, low carbon generation – renewables and nuclear – provided 62.1%, while fossil fuels sank to a record low of just 35.4%.

Coal power generation reached a record low level, down 26% compared to Q1 2019. This trend is expected to continue when Q2 statistics are released, as the UK marked a historic milestone by keeping coal off the grid for over two months between April and June, thanks to surging renewables and low demand caused by the COVID-19 lockdown.

RenewableUK’s head of policy and regulation Rebecca Williams said: “At the coldest time of year, wind and renewables rewrote the record books right across the board, keeping our nation powered up when we need it most. This is the clean energy transition written very large indeed.

“As the government works with us on a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery after the pandemic, you can be sure that the latest records, extraordinary though they are, will be broken again in the years ahead, as we phase out fossil fuels to reach net zero emissions”.

BEIS’s statistics follow on from those of Drax Electric Insights and EnAppSys, which found that renewables overtook fossil fuels in Britain in Q1.

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