One of the most important measures or indicators in achieving carbon neutrality or net zero is the measurement of changes in renewable electricity generation. Renewable energy is energy that comes from a source that will not run out. They are natural and self-replenishing and usually have a low- or zero-carbon footprint. With the UK aiming to reach net zero by 2050, a crucial part of the strategy is to transition to an electricity system with 100% zero-carbon generation, and much of this is expected to come from renewable energy. Today, there are four main renewable energy sources used to power the UK: wind, solar, hydroelectric, and bioenergy. Clean power generation is front-and-centre of the UK’s strategy to reach net zero by 2050, with the government setting energy providers a target for all electricity to come from 100% zero-carbon generation by 2035.
2020 marked the first year in the UK’s history that electricity came predominantly from renewable energy, with 43% of its power coming from a mix of wind, solar, bioenergy, and hydroelectric sources. The UK is on the cusp of producing its trillionth kilowatt hour (kWh) of renewable energy since 1970. While it took 47 years (from 1970 to 2017) to produce the first half trillion, the UK will have produced the second half trillion between 2017 and 2023.
In the 2nd Quarter of 2022, renewable electricity generation was 30.5 TWh, 12% up on the same quarter last year, and a record for Quarter 2. A strong increase in wind generation (up by 42%) more than offset lower generation from bioenergy (down by 16% as a result of outages). Renewable capacity is 3.2 GW (6.5 %) higher than 2021 Q2, 0.5 GW of which was added during the current quarter. The bulk of the new capacity is in offshore wind (2.4 GW), though onshore wind saw 0.4 GW installed and 0.3 GW in solar PV. Renewables’ share of electricity generation was 38.6% in the 2nd Quarter of 2022, higher than the same quarter last year (37.3%) but lower than fossil fuels’ share (41.9%).
On the last Thursday of each calendar quarter (March, June, September, and December), the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) publishes data on the UK’s renewables sector, including capacity, electricity generation, and liquid biofuel consumption. Renewable energy includes onshore wind, offshore wind, shoreline wave / tidal, solar photovoltaics, hydro, landfill gas, sewage sludge digestion, energy from waste, co-firing with fossil fuels, animal biomass, anaerobic digestion, and plant biomass.
TABLE 1: Electricity generated from renewable energy in the UK from 2019-2022
TABLE 2: Electricity generated from renewable energy in the UK from 2019-2022
Below are some graphs showing the changing trends in the UK’s emissions from the last 3 years (in some cases the latest data are from 2019/20). The source of these graphs is Our World in Data.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard UK Country Manager Prastuti Saikia