A Record Start To 2014 For UK Renewables

The big headline surrounding renewable energy this week concerns how well it's been going in the UK, despite many detractors and energy experts criticising some of the Government's moves. Figures were revealed this week which confirm that renewable energy generation is up 43% this year, compared to the first quarter of 2013. So, should we be throwing our hats up in the air and celebrating? Or is there something more to these figures that we're not quite seeing... 


The figues in question were revealed on Thursday 14th August, and claimed that Q1 of 2014 was a "record quarter" for the renewables industry, producing over 18.1 TWh (that's terra watts to you and me). This is quite a feat, and something which the Government probably has a right to boast about amid torrents of criticism over energy related policies. But I guess the question on everybody's lips is - could the figure not quite easily be higher? Just because renewable energy generation is up year on year, doesn't mean we're on course to win any awards or suddenly be able to say, do away with fracking. There's a bigger picture here, and stats can essentially back up anything if they're spun in the right way. But let's enjoy this moment in the sun... 


Last year we had one of the wettest winters in the UK on record, but our wind and hydropower industries saw an enourmous surge in their output.  Onshore wind generation flew up by 63% and offshore wind farm output leapt up by just over 50%. Hydropower on its own rocketed up by 78% on what it produced last year. The biggest surprise here is most certainly hydropower, producing 2.2 TWh in 2014 Q1 - the most ever produced by hydropower in a quarter in the UK. 


But all this pouring rain, flooding and stormy winds, how did the solar industry do? Well, if we think back to the beginning of 2014, the Government announced it would be cutting subsidies for large windfarms on the 1st April - no, unfortunately it wasn't a carefully planned April Fool's gag. Because of this, the beginning of the year saw huge surge in solar construction. While there might not have been much sun to play with, the industry as a whole saw 1.1 GW worth of new capacity added to the National Grid in the first 3 months of the year - two thirds of this came from large scale solar farm projects. While this contribution from solar isn't direct energy generation - extending the energy capacity of the UK is, many people would argue, more critical at this stage. Britain has long since been criticised over it's poor capacity levels, falling short of safety guidelines for decades - meaning that if there was a huge power outage, we'd have one of the biggest crises in Europe and would likely have to spend billions on emergency imported energy. But let's not dwell... 


By the end of Q1 2014, the UK had installed 20 GW worth of renewable energy technologies - up by a whopping 15% on last year. So while things might be moving slowly, they're certainly moving in the correct direction. The news will also be welcomed by the government, which is under pressure to comply with binding EU targets to generate 15 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020 - a goal that is expected to require over 30 per cent of electricity to come from renewable sources.


The data comes in the same week as Germany also confirmed that it enjoyed record output from renewables in the first half of this year, with renewable energy meeting 28 per cent of power demand as generation from fossil fuels fell.




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