UK renewables showed a massive leap to reach a new high of 47% of the UK’s electricity generation in the first three months of this year, according to official government statistics.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) figures, published in its quarterly Energy Trends report, showed that renewables’ share from January to March beat the previous quarterly record of 38.9% recorded in the third quarter of 2019.
BEIS said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on energy production and consumption was relatively marginal for most fuels as the lockdown came into effect late into the quarter on 23 March.
“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,” said RenewableUK’s head of policy and regulation Rebecca Williams. “This is the clean energy transition written very large indeed.
“As the Government works with us on a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery after the pandemic, you can be sure that the latest records, extraordinary though they are, will be broken again in the years ahead, as we phase out fossil fuels to reach net zero emissions.”
The government said this new record was mostly due to increased capacity and higher wind speeds during February. Wind generated 30% of the UK’s power in the first quarter, beating the previous record of 22.3% set in the fourth quarter of 2019, with 15.2% coming from offshore capacity and 14.7% from onshore.
BEIS said renewable electricity generation was at a record 40.8TWh in the first quarter, beating the previous record of 32.5TWh reached in the fourth quarter of 2019. Wind generated 26TWh, outperforming the previous high of 19.4TWh reached in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Offshore wind provided 13.2TWh beating 10.2TWh reached in the fourth quarter of 2019. Onshore wind provided 12.8TWh, beating 9.8TWh set in the first quarter of 2019.
Low carbon generation – comprising renewables and nuclear – reached a record high at 62.1%, with fossil fuel generation reaching a record low at 35.4% with a sharp fall in gas generation.
Coal output reached a record low during the first quarter, down some 26% on the same period last year.
Scotland’s energy minister Paul Wheelhouse, commenting on the release of Scotland’s first quarter energy statistics, said, “Renewables will play an increasing role in helping us achieve our transition to net-zero, which is why I am delighted that renewable electricity generation in Scotland hit a new record high in the first quarter of 2020, up 28% on the same quarter in 2019.
“New records have been set for generation by onshore wind, offshore wind and hydroelectric power. Offshore wind output has grown by 54% on a year ago and onshore wind by 25%.”