On 7 June 2017, for the first time, more than 50% of the power in the UK was generated by renewable energy sources. National grid reported that 50.7% of UK energy was from wind, solar, hydro and wood-pellet burning.
This is a staggering statistic which highlights the rapid development of the UK energy market in recent years. Heralded by a series of ever greater record-breaking percentages of power supplied from renewable and low-carbon sources, the latest development comes at a time when reductions in incentives for green power have led to a reduction in the deployment of certain renewable energy technologies.
Whilst there will no doubt be more records to come, progress towards a low-carbon energy mix has temporarily slowed. Despite onshore wind now being one of the cheapest forms of energy, a planning moratorium has led to a dramatic fall in the number of projects being installed. Subsidy-free business models for solar PV projects are much discussed, but don’t yet seem to have resulted in any significant deployment. Overall solar deployment is a fraction of what it was a few years ago.
That said, alternatives to the traditional renewable energy sources are emerging. Storage and smart-grid technology have the potential to significantly alter the utility of renewable generation. Storage (which made up only 1% of the power mix on 7 June) seems to be on the cusp of becoming a major part of the energy system in the UK, and is expected to have a significant impact in reducing some of the downsides to a heavily renewables-focussed generation, including “shifting” supply to the time when business and consumers most need it. Other technologies, such as tidal power, seem increasingly closer to being realised.
The renewable energy industry may have slowed a little, but with so much innovation and passion in the sector, greener, cleaner energy is set to make up an ever larger share of the energy mix in the UK.