What's in store for the future of UK renewables?

Posted in: Energy

Posted on: 04.04.2017

*Read this for what is the future of renewables in the UK 

Another week, another milestone for UK renewables – but for how much longer?

These days it seems barely a week goes by without another milestone being reached for renewables in the UK.

In 2016 we saw wind power break all records, contributing nearly 12% of UK electricity and surpassing coal generation for the first time.

And on a sunny weekend in March 2017, all the electricity generated locally by solar panels on rooftops and in fields meant that the demand for power experienced by the National Grid was lower in the afternoon than it was at night for the first time ever.

Three wind turbines

On that Saturday, the sunshine meant that solar power produced six times more electricity than the country’s coal-fired power stations. And just a few weeks later, British power generation saw its first coal-free day since the 1880s, thanks in part to the growth in renewables.

What's more, it’s clear that all these tumbling records don’t just amount to a blip - they’re the sign of an irresistible and continuing shift in our energy system; from one that relied on centralised fossil fuel run power stations, to one powered by thousands of local renewable generators.

Renewables now provide around a quarter of the UK’s electricity, up from just 4% in 2005.

But some point to dark clouds on the horizon, with new figures suggesting the UK risks falling behind in the global march towards a clean energy future.

Despite record levels of renewable generation, the Government’s shift away from financial support for clean technologies saw a dramatic drop in the amount of new capacity being installed in 2016, down to 3,289MW from 5,765MW in 2015.

The final closure of the Renewables Obligation to new capacity in 2017 – ending a scheme that’s responsible for 23.4% of all electricity supplied in the UK in 2015-16 – can only mean even fewer renewable generation sites coming online in the next year.

A different story abroad

Meanwhile globally, some 161GW was added to renewable generation capacity last year, pushing the total past 2,000GW, double what it was a decade ago.  This new capacity means more renewable generation for years to come, transforming energy systems in some of the world’s industrialised economies and helping to power clean development in poorer countries.

And so, as the world embraces the renewables revolution, all eyes in the UK are on the Government’s long-awaited ‘clean growth plan’ to see if it can build on the success of the past few years and set us on the path to a genuinely sustainable, low-carbon energy future.

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