New official figures have revealed that renewable energy accounted for almost half of the United Kingdom’s electricity during the first three months of the year, thanks in large part to record wind record generation and falling coal numbers.
The UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its official statistics for the first quarter of 2020, revealing that total renewable generation increased by 30% against the same quarter a year earlier, increasing to provide 40.8TWh, an increase of 9.4TWh and a record increase for year-on-year quarterly renewable generation.
As such, the share of electricity generation provided by renewable energy sources during the first three months of 2020 increased to 47% – up an impressive 11.1% on the same quarter a year earlier.
The new generation record beat out the previous best of 32.5TWh set in the fourth quarter of 2019 – which, in and of itself, shows consistency in the growth of the UK’s renewable energy network.
The fleet of renewable energy sources responsible for the UK’s new record generation came in at 47.4GW at the end of the first quarter, a 5.2% increase on 2019’s first quarter, due primarily to increased offshore wind capacity which grew by 19%, or 1.6GW.
Unsurprisingly, given stronger than usual wind conditions across the country, the UK’s fleet of wind turbines generated increased levels, with offshore wind generation increasing by 53%, up to 13.2TWh, while onshore wind generation increased by 29%, up to 12.8TWh.
Together, total wind energy generated 7.5TWh more electricity as compared to the first quarter of 2019, contributing 30% of the UK’s total electricity over the first three months of 2020.
The new wind energy records combined to deliver 26TWh, beating out the previous record high of 19.4TWh, again set in Q4’2019.
Solar energy generation, however, decreased by 11% in the first quarter of 2020, as compared to the first quarter of 2019, due to “a decrease in the number of sunlight hours compared to the relatively high level seen” a year earlier, which fell from 3.2 hours to 3.2 hours per day on average.
Commenting on the news, RenewableUK’s Head of Policy and Regulation Rebecca Williams 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.
“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.”
All told, the UK’s low carbon generation – which includes both renewables and nuclear – reached a record high for the quarter of 62.1%, while fossil fuel generation fell to a record low of 35.4% due in large part to a sharp fall in gas generation.
Importantly, this new low carbon generation record was achieved despitea fall in nuclear generation caused by maintenance outages.
The UK’s coal generation figures continued to plummet, falling 26% against the same quarter a year earlier, a new record low, providing only 3.8% of the UK’s electricity generated in the first quarter. Coal production fell to a new record low of 0.4 million tonnes, 27% lower than the first quarter of 2019, due in large part to mine closures and falling demand for coal for electricity generation.