First Quarter of 2020 Sees UK Break Renewable Energy Record

In the first three months of 2020 renewable energy was responsible for generating almost half of Britain’s electricity helped by a surge in wind power.

This sets a new record for clean energy as government’s official data reveals that renewable energy accounted for 47% of the UK’s electricity generation in the first three months of the year, completely overtaking the previous quarterly record of 39% set last year.

The renewable energy data released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), shows a combination of electricity from the UK’s windfarms, solar panels and hydro power plants as well as bioenergy generated by burning wood chips as a substitute for coal.

According to the government’s energy analysts, significant growth in electricity generated by solar panels and windfarms which climbed by more than a third over the last year, was the main reason for the “substantial increase” in the UK’s total renewable energy output.

Though solar, unsurprisingly did not have as strong a first quarter as wind power it has broken a number of records over the past few months that highlight its importance in the UK. This includes its performance in April when it smashed peak generation with 9.68GW

The government’s report goes on to explain that the start-up of new windfarms in combination with the UK’s unusually wet and windy weather at the start of the year, notably storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge helped to generate record wind power generation.

Renewable energy generated by offshore wind farms contributed the largest increase in the first quarter of the year, climbing by 53% compared with the previous year, while onshore wind generation grew by a fifth.

In total, 30% of the UK’s electricity was generated by wind power in the first quarter which beat the previous record of 22.3% set in the final months of 2019.

Renewable UK’s, Rebecca Williams, head of policy and regulation, said that the renewable energy industry’s records would certainly be broken again in the years ahead as the government worked on “a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery”.

For the first time since coal-fired power generation began during the industrial revolution, the UK set a new coal-free record of more than two months in the first quarter of this year as a result of a surge in renewable energy brought on by both bright, breezy weather and low demand during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Rebecca Williams said that the government’s record quarterly data was very important in showing how records had been set for clean energy transition at the coldest time of the year.

She said:

“At the coldest time of year, wind and renewables rewrote the record books right across the board, keeping our nation powered up when we need it most. This is the clean energy transition written very large indeed,”

The acceleration in the growth of renewable energy together with a steady supply of nuclear power, which made up about 15% of the UK generation mix, drove fossil fuel power plants to a new record low in the first quarter.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the minister for energy and clean growth, said in a statement:

“These figures highlight the progress being made as our country moves away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. The huge shift to clean energy over the past decade is one of our great national success stories, and this Government is determined to go even further to reach our net zero emissions target by 2050.”

Less than a third of UK energy generation in the first quarter came from gas-fired power plants in comparison with over 40% in the first months of 2019. Coal-fired power makes up only 3.8% of the electricity generated in the UK. These statistics show us that the UK is on it way to achieving its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.