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Renewables Provided 47% of UK’s Electricity in First Quarter of 2020


A surge in wind power meant renewables provided nearly half of the UK’s electricity in the first three months of the year—the highest percentage ever.

According to data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), released Thursday, renewable resources contributed 47% of the electricity generated in the UK between January and March. That’s up from 35.9% in the first quarter of 2019 and from the previous quarterly record of 39%, recorded last summer.

Wind power alone contributed 30% of the electricity generated across the three months, exceeding the previous record of 22.3% set in the final quarter of 2019.

Winter traditionally hasn’t been the most productive season for renewable resources, with low levels of sunlight reducing yields from solar installations. But growth in the UK’s wind power capacity, now standing at 47.4GW, and a series of blustery storms pushed wind generation to new heights this year. Output from renewables was up 35%, to its highest level ever, across the quarter, with wind power generation hitting new heights in February when Storms Ciara and Dennis lashed the UK.

At 2 am on Saturday, 8 February, in the thick of Storm Ciara, wind turbines were contributing a record-shattering 56% of the country’s electricity and went on to produce 44.46% across the whole day, according to data from energy consultancy EnAppSys.

Contributions from bioenergy were also up, by 19%, which the BEIS attributed to new capacity and greater productivity.

Nuclear out slumped, down 5.8% from the previous quarter and 0.8% year-on-year. Heysham 1 was brought back online during the quarter, but outages continued at Dungeness B, Hunterson B and Heysham 2, and Hinkley Point B was also taken offline in February for four months for inspection of the reactor core. Despite the outages, nuclear continued to supply 15.1% of the country’s electricity.

With contributions from nuclear power and biomass installations, low carbon generation reached a record of 62.1% across the quarter, up from the previous record of 51.8%.

Meanwhile, natural gas contributed 31.4% of the UK’s power and coal generated 3.8%.

BEIS’s figures echo those calculated by EnAppSys in April, which revealed renewables generated 35.4GW of electricity in the first quarter of the year— 44%, compared to 32.8% from fossil fuels.

Trade body RenewableUK heralded the quarter’s figures. Rebecca Williams, head of policy and regulation, said: “At the coldest time of year, wind and renewables rewrote the record books right across the board, keeping our nation powered up when we need it most. This is the clean energy transition written very large indeed.”

She said the records for renewable generation will continue to tumble as the industry and government continue to invest in decarbonising the energy system.

“As the Government works with us on a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery after the pandemic, you can be sure that the latest records, extraordinary though they are, will be broken again in the years ahead, as we phase out fossil fuels to reach net zero emissions,” she added.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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