Solar contributed 28% of the UK’s total renewable energy generation, which was dominated by wind power. The share of fossil fuels in the energy mix reached a historically low level last year, at 37.7%.
Electricity generation from renewable sources again provided record levels of generation in the UK last year, with 43% of the country’s electricity supplied by sources such as wind, solar and biogas, compared to 37% in 2019.
The British government has published its Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKE) for 2020 today, released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Last year’s data on total energy production and consumption confirmed falling fossil fuel production and a growing share of renewables. Total energy demand, including petroleum fuels for transport, has fallen to 1950s figures, due to Covid-19 restrictions. Total consumption is down 13% over one year.
In terms of power generation, the report highlighted a 67-day coal-free period from April 10 to June 16, followed by another 55-day window, until August 12. Coal fell to 1.8% of electricity generation while peaking gas plants provided 35.7%.
The growth of renewable energy has exceeded that of fossil fuels, DUKE Data showing that, since 2010, renewable energy production has increased by 6.9% to the current record level.
Electricity production by fuel, 2000-2020:
Picture: DUKE Report 2021, BEIS.
Growth in solar generation has slowed in the UK, with its share of the renewable mix rising to 28% in 2020. Solar generation increased by 4.6% last year, compared to 2019, mainly in due to better weather conditions.
BEIS figures indicate that only 238 MW of solar PV was added in a 2020 affected by Covid-19:
|Installed solar photovoltaic capacity (MW):|
|Photovoltaic solar production (GWh):|
A recent BEIS survey, to understand how to get more solar power on rooftops, noted that small and medium sized businesses in the UK could face higher taxes after installing PV. When the issue was raised with survey respondents, it sparked “palpable disbelief and anger”.
The UK government began a large-scale reduction in the solar feed-in tariff (FIT) in 2015.
Winners of the Wind
With 13% of UK electricity coming from offshore wind and 11.1% from onshore turbines, the combined figure hit a record 24.1%, or 75.7 TWh, of UK generation in 2020. Capacity increases would be modest but favorable wind conditions, including first quarter storms, assisted production increases to record an 18% year-on-year increase. Offshore wind, in particular, has been noted as generating 29% more electricity on an annual basis.
Biogas was the only renewable energy listed as having seen a drop in production, with the government attributing this to lower extraction rates at landfill gas sites.
Total renewable energy capacity, including wind and solar, fell to a low of 1GW added last year, the lowest amount since 2007 and the slowest growth rate since 2002.
The publication of the latest version of DUKE The data comes after the UK government announced on June 30 that it would bring forward a ban on coal-fired power generation by one year, to October 1, 2024.
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