According to new figures released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS), the share of the UK’s energy production held by renewable methods hit 30.1% in the first quarter of 2018, a quarterly record. This was 4% higher than the first quarter of 2017.
The share of energy produced by wind increased significantly, via a combination of higher wind speeds, greater capacity (through the construction of more facilities), and advances in technology allowing for greater efficiency. Wind alone generated nearly a fifth of the UK’s power in this quarter, over half of the overall renewable energy production figure. This trend is expected to continue further into 2018 and beyond, especially with recent innovations. For instance, the Hywind floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland has successfully installed batteries on its turbines this June, allowing the farm to store energy to be released when the wind has dropped. The developers, Masdar, have hailed this as a ‘world first’. Offshore wind power still leads the way – offshore farms produced 7.9 terawatt/hours of energy, whereas onshore farms lagged behind at 2.1 TWh.
The overall capacity (as opposed to utilised production) of renewable energy increased over the course of the year, with a record 41.9 gigawatts worth of capacity added this quarter, an increase of 11.2% over the first quarter of 2017. Nationwide energy production was lower for the quarter, by 1%, due to falling rates of coal and gas production. Coal accounted for just 9.4% of energy produced in the UK during the quarter, gas was on 39.9%, and nuclear generated 17.9%.
Scotland experienced a greater than average rise, with an increase in renewable energy production of 11%, mostly due to advances in offshore windfarms. Other statistics, showing their overall production figures for 2017, demonstrate that the figure for that year was even higher, a 27% increase, and that 69% of all energy produced in Scotland in 2017 was from renewable sources. Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Energy Minister, said: “These figures show that Scotland’s renewable energy sector is stronger than ever with almost exactly 1 Gigawatt of new capacity installed since Q1 2017 and a strong pipeline of further projects still to be constructed.”
Emma Pinchbeck, Executive Director of RenewableUK, the UK’s wind/marine trade body, said: “These new figures show that wind power alone is generating nearly 20% of the UK’s entire electricity needs…today’s figures also show that wind generated more than nuclear in the first quarter of this year (19.1% compared to 17.9%). It’s good to see the Government announced a Sector Deal for the nuclear industry today, as that’s evidence of action on energy policy by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The offshore wind industry is also working on a Sector Deal with Government. We hope that will be agreed as soon as possible.”
With new grants to wind power companies and the continuing march towards greater efficiency and storage capacity, it seems extremely likely that windfarms, both onshore and offshore, will continue to gain a greater proportion of the UK’s energy production capacity.