Project numbers soar by 57% as over £400m invested

More than £400m - over £1.1m a day - was invested in independent renewable energy generation projects by businesses, farmers, landowners and communities last year.

The continued strong growth being seen in generation outside the big power companies came despite the renewables sector facing significant headwinds in political uncertainty and changes to renewable subsidies.

The independent generation sector has also had to deal with the impact of a fall in wholesale power prices which wiped an estimated £132m off the value of electricity generated last year.

The 2015 Energy Entrepreneurs Report, compiled by SmartestEnergy, reveals that the total invested in the sector outside of the major power utilities has now risen to almost £2.1bn with 4,460 commercial-scale sites of at least 50kW capacity now in operation.

The projects – ranging from community wind turbines to onsite generation plants at manufacturing sites - generated an estimated £1.08bn in wholesale energy a year, enough to power 5.7 million homes, or meet all of the public sector's power needs.

The average invested to develop the 1,619 new projects last year was £258,000, down from £352,000, reflecting a higher proportion of solar projects which tend to be lower volume than other renewable projects.

Since the first Energy Entrepreneurs Report in 2013, the amount invested in the sector has risen by 75%, project numbers have more than doubled and their share of total UK generation risen by more than 50% to stand at over 7%.

Robert Groves, Chief Executive Officer for SmartestEnergy, said:

“This report has highlighted the resilience of the independent generation sector against the backdrop of political uncertainty, changes to renewable subsidies and falls in wholesale power prices that occurred last year.”

But Groves also said that recent changes announced by the new Government will challenge this growth.

“With the early end to support for onshore wind under the Renewables Obligation and the end of the exemption from Climate Change Levy for renewable source electricity, 2015 could prove to be a difficult year for generators and investors,” said Groves.

“Our hope is that, as always, energy entrepreneurs find a way to seize opportunity so they can continue being a significant part of the energy landscape and contributing to meeting the nation’s energy needs and climate change targets.”

> Download the full report

Key highlights from the 2015 Energy Entrepreneurs report include:

  • 1,619 new projects developed, a 57% year-on-year rise
  • 8.57GW of independent generation capacity now in place – 39% rise
  • Project numbers have more than doubled from 2,011 to 4,460 in three years
  • Investment of £417.7m in sector during the year – average project cost of £258,000
  • Independent projects now generating £1.08bn of wholesale energy a year (figure would have been £1.21bn before recent energy price falls)
  • Output is enough to power 5.7 million homes - or all of the public sector
  • Onsite generation projects developed by businesses have increased by 44.4%
  • Wales is fastest growing part of Great Britain with 70.3% rise in projects
  • Solar overtakes wind to become the biggest renewable technology in England
  • Anaerobic digestion second fastest-growing technology by capacity with a 29% increase from the 86 new projects coming on stream

> Download the full report