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UK renewables enjoyed ‘rapid’ growth in 2017, but sector wants to go ‘further and faster’

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The UK’s power sector continued on its trajectory towards “rapid” adoption of renewables in 2017, according to official government statistics.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s 2017 Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES), released last week, placed renewables’ share of power generation at 29.3%, a new record and up by almost five percentage points on the 2016 share (24.5%).

This was representative of almost 100TWh of renewable power generation (99.3TWh) over the course of the year, aided by increases in generation capacity of the country’s three top renewables; solar, and both onshore and offshore wind.

However there was something of a changing of the guard within those three, as onshore wind regained its crown as the top renewable generator by capacity from solar PV, who briefly topped the charts in 2016.

As of the end of last year, onshore wind held 31.7% of the UK’s entire nameplate renewable generation capacity, just enough to dethrone solar PV, which held 31.5% of nameplate capacity.

Onshore wind was too the most prolific generator of renewable power. Generation from onshore wind soared 39% year-on-year on the back of higher wind speeds to 29.1TWh with offshore wind experiencing a similar boon, up 27% to 20.9TWh.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive at industry trade body Energy UK, said the figures underlined “just how rapidly the energy sector is transforming”.

“Such extraordinary progress in such a short space of time shows what can be done with a clear policy direction and the right framework to encourage investment and innovation.

“But we want to go further and faster and achieve greater benefits… And if we are to make the transition to low carbon at the lowest cost we must ensure there is an effective route to market for solar and onshore wind,” he said.

The growth in renewables had a demonstrable impact on the wider energy market too. Coal was rendered uneconomical for lengthy durations last year – a trend which has continued into 2018 – and its contribution to overall power generation slumped by 27%, and even gas experienced a reduction in demand, falling 4.6% on 2016’s figures.

The power sector’s carbon emissions intensity therefor makes for interesting reading.

According to figures compiled by Drax Insights, total power sector carbon intensity in 2016 stood at 269g CO2/kWh. This fell by more than 12.5% to 235g CO2/kWh in 2017, but there is still significant work to do if the country is to meet its goal of power sector carbon emissions of 100g CO2/kWh by 2030.

The sector will however take heart from figures reported from earlier this year, which placed renewables’ share of power generation at 30.1%, representative of an increase on 2017’s total figures.

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