The proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources hit a record new level in the summer despite very low wind speeds during July’s heatwave, according to the latest government figures.
New energy trends statistics, released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on 20 December 2018, shows that renewables accounted for 33.1 per cent of total electricity generated between July and September.
This was up from the 30 per cent share recorded in the equivalent quarter in 2017.
Renewable electricity capacity was 43.2 GW at the end of the third quarter of 2018, a 10 per cent increase (3.9 GW) on a year earlier. This increase was reflected in total renewables generation, which reached 25.0 TWh, also 10 per cent up on the same three months in 2017.
This increased share was also driven by more favourable weather conditions with solar generation boosted by a 26 per cent increase in sunny hours over the quarter, while September saw 15 per cent higher wind speeds than a year previously.
Solar and wind generation combined were up 11 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2017.
Last month National Grid confirmed a fresh hourly wind energy generation record on Tuesday 18 December when offshore and onshore installations generated 15 GW between 11.15am and 12.15pm, equivalent to 34.7 per cent of Britain’s electricity needs.
Generation from bioenergy was boosted in the third quarter of the year by a 16 per cent increase in capacity year on year and reduced outages, although hydro energy slumped by a third due to low water levels during the summer drought.
The increased proportion for renewables helped boost low carbon electricity’s share of generation from 54 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to a record high of 56 per cent in 2018.
Nuclear plants accounted for 22.9 per cent of total electricity generated in the third quarter of 2018, compared to 24 per cent in the third quarter of 2017, with the drop largely resulting from an outage at the Hunstanton reactor.
Gas plants accounted for 38.6 per cent of total electricity generation, down from 39.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2017, whilst coal’s share fell from 2.9 per cent to 2.5 per cent over the same period.
The 3.7 per cent drop in gas generation was explained by increases in renewable generation and gas prices.
And while coal generation dropped 14 per cent across the quarter, the rate of decrease slowed, particularly in September.
Overall electricity generation in the third quarter of 2018 fell by 0.4 per cent, from 75.6 TWh a year earlier to a record low of 75.3 TWh.
Once weather differences were taken into account, primary energy consumption fell by 1.1 per cent between the third quarter of 2017 and the third quarter of 2018.
Dr Nina Skorupska chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association described the record-breaking green energy share as “fantastic news and a wonderful way to end the year”.
She said: “Breaking the record for renewables share of electricity twice in one year is testament to the minister’s words that the trilemma is over and cheap power is now green power.”
But she urged the government to come up with a replacement for the feed-in tariffs (FIT) scheme for small scale renewables which the government confirmed are due to close in March.
She added: “Although the discouraging lower level of feed-in tariff installations is a telling sign of what is to come after the 31 March 2019, we urge the government to work with industry to introduce an alternative mechanism and unlock a route to market as soon as possible. We need to ensure that cheap, green and technologically exciting energy and the jobs that accompany it are accessible to everyone across the UK.”