INDUSTRY INSIGHT: Renewable Energy Generation in the UK Reaches Record High
One fifth of all electricity in Britain was generated by wind farms and renewable sources in the first three months of 2014, according to new statistics released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
New wind farms and strong winds coupled with a good winter for hydropower plants sent renewable energy surging to 19.4 percent of all electricity from January to March – an increase of 12 percent from the same period last year. According to the report, the overall power produced was enough to sustain 15 million homes during the quarter.
This report has been hailed as somewhat of a breakthrough for the wind industry, which along provided 12 percent of the overall power produced, as well as a rebuff to critics who said that renewables would never account for such a large portion of energy generation.
Controversial Renewable Subsidies
Despite good news regarding renewables, the DECC report could catalyze a price row between energy suppliers. The data shows that gas prices to domestic customers rose in the first quarter while prices for businesses declined.
The cost of gas to householders, including VAT, rose by 4.8 percent in real terms between the first quarter of 2013 and the same period of this year, while average gas prices to business customers, including the climate change levy, were 5.2 percent lower.
The statistics underline the significant strides being taken by the industry to meet a government drive to reduce Britain's carbon emissions, although the scale of renewable energy subsidies remains controversial.
What’s more, the data also shows that in 2013 only 5.2 percent of final energy consumption, including heat and transport, came from renewable sources – well short of the a target of 15 percent by 2020 set by EU directives.
According to the lobby group Renewable Energy Association (REA), the UK is still lagging behind most other EU states and needs to do more, especially in the field of green heat and transport biofuels.
Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA said, “Every percentage point increase in homegrown renewable energy makes us that much more energy secure. The progress in electricity is encouraging, but growth is not yet strong enough in renewable heat and transport to meet the government's objectives.”
The UK Still Reliant on Coal
The UK may be lagging behind other EU states because of its reliance on coal for its power. According to government statistics released on Thursday 26th June, about 37 percent of the UK’s electricity came from coal in Q1. While this is down from 44 percent during the same quarter in 2012, the amount is still substantial.
Demand for Gas Falling
Interestingly, less electricity was generated in the UK from gas in the early part of 2014 than anytime in the last 16 years. Reportedly, demand for gas fell by about 8 percent, and gas represented about 23 percent of electricity generation.
The DECC data reports the total amount of electricity generated by all forms of renewable power reached 18.1 terrawatt hours in the first three months of this year, up 43 percent on the same period last year.
Across the whole of 2013, the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources, including solar, hydro and biomass, was up by 30 percent on 2012. Offshore wind raised the most – by 52 percent – but solar was also up by 51 percent, while hydro generation fell by 11 percent, reflecting lower rainfall.
The DECC data reveals that the price of electricity for domestic customers was up by 5.9 percent in real terms quarter on quarter – the same figure as recorded for industrial electricity prices.
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.