How Is The UK Re-Charging?


DECC LogoThe DUKES 2013 Report

Last month the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) released their Statistical Press Release: The Digest of UK Energy Statistics (aka DUKES) taken from 2012. It has a lot of graphs and numbers but what exactly does it mean?

I’m here to provide a closer look and point out some of the interesting trends.

Offshore RenewablesRenewable Energy on The Up!

This graph shows the gradual increase of renewable energy produced by the UK from 2004 to 2012. The UK only became interested in renewable energy in the mid-1990’s. The news is good! Each year has shown an increase and each year it has been above the target set by the government.

UK Energy Produced by Renewables
The percentage of UK Energy Produced by Renewables

But It’s Not All Good News …

However, the target set for the government is low compared to other countries. Each time we’ve surpassed that target it has only been by 0.1%, which is hardly breaking any records. Germany, for instance, has just broken its monthly solar power generation record (again). In July 2013 they logged 5.1 terawatt’s hours of electricity. (To put that in to perspective we only got 1114.2 gigawatts from renewable sources!)

Installed Capacity of PV Per Country
The total capacity of Photovoltaic panels per country.

Quote From Clean Technica:

“In terms of total solar power capacity per capita, Germany crushes every other country. At the end of 2012, it had approximately 400 MW of solar power capacity per million people, considerably more than #2 Italy at 267 MW per million people, #3 Belgium at 254 MW per million people, and #4 Czech Republic at 204 MW per million, and #5 Greece at 143 MW per million people. The US came it at #20 with about 25 MW per million people.”

Notice how we don’t even feature on that list? I know we’re a small country but we could be doing more. It’s certainly spiked upwards but it’s hardly the runner-up to winning the medal, let alone the gold seeker!

The Good News

There is good news in this muddle of information. Offshore wind generation (which is the UK’s second largest renewable source currently after biomass) has increased by 46% in 2012 and had a greater load factor than gas. (33.7% from wind compared to 30.4% from gas.)

UK Electricity Generation by Fuel
UK Electricity Generation by Fuel

The Final Word And Going Forwards

Slowly things are changing. It’s not just about turning off the television or light bulb any more. It’s about moving forwards and growing with the changes happening around us. Perhaps the UK government should review their plan and set more aggressive targets for renewable energy so we can try to catch up on the swift progress being made elsewhere in Europe.

Sources:

Germany Breaks Monthly Solar Generation Record, 6.5 Times More than US best, from Clean Technica

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) 2013 – Press Release

Something will have to give…


A recent industry study by Kronos, Germany’s leading solar farm developer, suggests that Britain only has a handful of brownfield sites sufficient for large solar panel farms which puts a fresh dent in the governments pursuit of its renewable energy targets. Salvation is possible, but it does not have a pretty face.

solarpanelfarmIn July an application for a 199 panel farm in Land of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Berkshire was approved. Kronos themselves are currently working on proposals that would see a 250,000 panel farm spanning 100 acres of agricultural land in Hampshire which would generate enough power for 30,000 homes. Conservationists are concerned that the Kronos report signifies a loosening of the cork that is currently preventing the solar farm genie from leaving its bottle and blighting the green fields of Britain. Resistance to renewables is not new of course, opposition to windfarms has been well documented in recent years and there are currently around 300 windfarm action groups in the UK.

Nuclear is seen by some as the only catch-all solution, but doubt has been cast on the commercial viability of the latest EPR reactors that will be the cornerstone of Britain’s privatised modernisation programme. There is also considerable uncertainty regarding regulation of the nuclear industry and nuclear waste disposal. Resistance is strong here too. Both the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament are opposed to new nuclear power stations.

FrackingHydraulic fracturing, or Fracking, has recently made headlines despite being commonplace in the North Sea since the 1970s. Now the drills are making their way inshore serious concerns have arisen regarding earthquake risk and water contamination.

 


Against this backdrop of opposition there is the looming prospect of a power deficit in the UK where demand is stronger than ever. In June 2013 OFGEM issued a warning stating that the risk of power blackouts in the UK within the next 18 months has doubled since a year ago. In that year Britain’s population, which is now the fastest growing in Europe, increased by 420,000 which is two and a half times the increase experienced by Germany. In 1970 the energy consumed in British homes represented a quarter of Britain’s total consumption; it is now a third thanks to the increase in housing stock which is still regarded as woefully inadequate.

It is almost impossible to find a form of mass power generation, renewable or otherwise, that does not come loaded with controversy and opposition. The time at which an unstoppable force (Britain’s power needs) meets an immovable object (the resistance to virtually all forms of mass power generation) is fast approaching and something will have to give.