UK Renewables Update Declares Targets In Sight

The U.K. government on Thursday released its 2012 Renewable Energy Roadmap update. The verdict: “Significant progress has been made on the rollout of renewable energy across the United Kingdom from July 2011 to July 2012,” a release from Energy Secretary Edward Davey declared.

The government said the U.K. is on track to meet interim goals “on the way to the ambitious European target to source 15 percent of all energy from renewable sources by 2020.” If that 15 percent goal sounds modest, don’t forget it’s not just for electricity, but for the whole spectrum of energy consumption – electricity, heating and transportation. This effectively means that the U.K. must get 30 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

UK renewables update

Greater Gabbard wind farm, off Suffolk, England (image via SSE)

From mid-2011 to the middle of this year the UK saw a 27 percent increase in overall renewable electricity generated, with “over 10 percent” of all electricity generated now coming from renewables, the government said. Wind carried most of the load, with onshore capacity up 24 percent to 5.3 gigawatts and offshore wind capacity up 60 percent increase to 2.5 GW. While a smaller factor at 1.4 GW, solar PV capacity was grew faster than anything else, more than quintupling in the 12-month period.

PV surged despite cuts in subsidies, with demand helped by plunging costs – down some 50 percent  seen around the world, including the U.S. In the update, the government identified PV as a new, ninth key technology in meeting the 2020 target, joining onshore wind, offshore wind, marine energy, biomass electricity, biomass heat, ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and renewable transport.

“Renewable energy is increasingly powering the UK’s grid, and the economy too,” said Davey, a Liberal Democrat in the coalition government who has clashed often with Tory Chancellor George Osborne over the level of subsidies for renewables. “It’s a fantastic achievement that more than 10 percent of our power now comes from renewables, given the point from which we started.”

RenewableUK, which represents the wind and marine energy industries, saw the update as testament to its success and importance.

“As the Update shows, we have a proven track record and a clear plan on how to make the most of our country’s extraordinary resources of wind, wave and tidal energy in the years ahead,” Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said in a statement. “Renewables will be generating more of our electricity than nuclear power by 2016. By 2020, wind will be the biggest contributor of electricity to the UK apart from natural gas.The blueprint for our low-carbon future is here for all to see, and get on board.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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