Renewable energy hits new milestone

Renewables provided a record 29.3% of the UK’s electricity during 2017 thanks to increased capacity and higher wind speeds.

The share of power provided by renewable energy rose by 4.8 percentage points year-on-year, with generation capacity soaring by 13.6% to 40.6GW.

Generation from onshore and offshore wind increased by 39% and 27% respectively to new records, while solar rose by 11% and hydro climbed by 10%.

Low carbon’s share of generation – which combines renewables with nuclear – hit a record 50.1%, up from 45.6% during 2016.

‘Benefits for consumers, the economy and the environment’

The figures were welcomed by the renewable power industry, with Lawrence Slade, Chief Executive at trade body Energy UK, saying: “These figures underline just how rapidly the energy sector is transforming, with low-carbon sources providing the majority of electricity generation last year, bringing benefits for consumers, the economy and the environment.

“Such extraordinary progress in such a short space of time shows what can be done with a clear policy direction and the right framework to encourage investment and innovation.”

Emma Pinchbeck, Executive Director at RenewableUK, added: “It’s baffling that government is still excluding new onshore wind projects from the market place.

“Opinion polls show that two-thirds of people think ministers should change their current policy and allow onshore wind to go ahead where it has local support, and most Conservative voters agree with them.”

Warnings for the future

Some commentators highlighted the fact that the figures covered 2017, when subsidies for projects were ending, with Kate Blagojevic, Head of Energy at Greenpeace UK, pointing out: “These highly-encouraging figures show how onshore wind power stepped up and powered Britain when it had some political support.

“Unfortunately, that support for onshore wind, and also solar power, has been effectively dismantled and replaced with huge public subsidies for a new nuclear programme and a planning system designed to foist fracking on communities that don’t want it.

“The government urgently needs to provide reliable support for these renewable industries that can deliver low cost energy, as well as turning its attention to reducing emissions from cars, planes and heating our homes, if we are to meet our climate targets.”

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