For the first time, the capacity for electricity generation in the UK from renewable sources has surpassed the generation capacity of fossil fuel power plants. This information comes from research by Imperial College London and commissioned by Drax, and shows a 42GW renewables capacity, against 40.6GW of capacity from fossil fuel installations.
Whilst this does not mean that more energy in the UK is generated by renewables than fossil fuels it is a strong indicator of the success of the renewables industry in this country, as well as a clear demonstration of the appetite of funders for continued investment into the sector.
It also bodes well for future deployment of renewables supporting technologies such as battery storage, smart-grid and demand response and grid balancing installations, all of which are (and will continue to be) needed to wean us off power plants using coal, oil and gas – the traditional ‘baseload’ – which have some of the biggest climate impacts. Investment and deployment of these supporting technologies is needed now, but will be in even greater demand as more of the older fossil power plants are decommissioned. Further stress will be placed on the energy grid as the country transitions to an increasingly electric transport system, making innovation and investment by DSOs, National Grid and the energy industry essential.
Despite the unstable and much diminished government support for renewable energy projects, the industry continues to thrive, showing the resilience, creativity and tenacity of its proponents. The much-lauded ‘subsidy-free’ projects which have been perpetually months away have begun to be realized, as have battery storage installations. This is likely to lead to even more deployment of renewable energy generation projects. Biogas and anaerobic digestion will also have a part to play, with scope for significant further deployment of AD projects in the UK to catch up with countries like Germany.
If the UK is to meet its Paris obligations the renewables industry will need to continue to develop and adapt to the changing energy market. However, the news that capacity for generation of renewable energy now outstrips that of fossil fuel generation is both welcoming and encouraging news.