New government figures reveal UK renewable electricity capacity has soared 42% over the past year to 14.2GW
The government has today released its latest quarterly energy statistics, confirming that the UK’s renewable energy sector is continuing to expand rapidly, while also fuelling concerns that high gas prices are forcing energy companies to switch to more polluting coal power.
The statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show renewable electricity output during the second quarter of 2012 rose 6.5 per cent year-on-year to 8.13TWh, while capacity soared 42.4 per cent to 14.2GW, largely as the result of the opening of a raft of new large-scale on- and offshore wind farms and the conversion of the Tilbury B power station to dedicated biomass.
The increases meant that renewables’ share of the UK’s electricity mix edged up from nine per cent in the second quarter of 2011 to 9.6 per cent a year later.
The performance would have been stronger still, but low rainfall and winds led to a 31 per cent drop in hydroelectricity production and an 11 per cent drop in power output from onshore wind farms.
In contrast, output from offshore wind farms soared 47 per cent year-on-year to 1.64TWh, bioenergy edged up 6.5 per cent to just over 3TWh and energy from Solar PV and wave and tidal systems increased more than nine-fold to 0.47TWh.
The figures come just days after the UK set a new record for wind power output and mean the UK is now on track to set a host of new renewable energy records during 2012, despite on-going concerns that policy uncertainty is harming investor confidence.
However, the new data will also further fuel environmentalists’ fears that the currently high price of natural gas is driving a new “dash for coal” that is likely to result in a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
DECC revealed gas accounted for 29.8 per cent of the electricity mix during the second quarter, its lowest second quarter share in 14 years, while coal accounted for 36.1 per cent, its highest second quarter share in 14 years. With nuclear’s share of the electricity mix also falling slightly to 21.9 per cent, coal was the dominant fuel source during the second quarter.
There was also a blow for the UK’s energy efficiency efforts, with the figures revealing total primary energy consumption for energy uses rose 6.3 per cent year-on-year. The increase was largely a result of the poor weather, but DECC admitted that even when adjusted to take account of weather differences between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, primary energy consumption rose by 0.8 per cent.