Renewable energy in the United Kingdom can be divided into production for electricity, heat, and transport.
From the mid-1990s, renewable energy began to contribute to the electricity generated in the United Kingdom, building on a small hydroelectric generating capacity. This has been surpassed by wind power, for which the UK has large potential resources.
Interest has increased in recent years due to UK and EU targets for reductions in carbon emissions, and commercial incentives for renewable electricity such as the Renewable Obligation Certificate scheme (ROCs) and Feed in tariffs (FITs), as well as for renewable heat such as the Renewable Heat Incentive. The 2009 EU Renewable Directive established a target of 15% reduction in total energy consumption in the UK by 2020.
As of December 2020, renewable production generated 40.2% of total electricity produced in the UK;around 6% of total UK energy usage.
Increased electricity prices in 2021 were caused in part by the lack of wind.
Heat from wood fires goes back to the earliest human habitation of Britain.
Waterwheel technology was imported by the Romans, with sites in Ikenham and Willowford in England being from the 2nd century AD.At the time of the Domesday Book (1086), there were 5,624 watermills in England alone, almost all of them located by modern archaeological surveys, which suggest a higher of 6,082, with many others likely unrecorded in the northern reaches of England. By 1300, this number had risen to between 10,000 and 15,000.
Windmills first appeared in Europe during the Middle Ages. The earliest reliable reference to a windmill in Europe (assumed to have been of the vertical type) dates from 1185, in the former village of Weedley in Yorkshire, at the southern tip of the Wold overlooking the Humber Estuary.The first electricity-generating wind turbine was a battery charging machine installed in July 1887 by Scottish academic James Blyth to light his holiday home in Marykirk, Scotland.
In 1878 the world's first hydroelectric power scheme was developed at Cragside in Northumberland, England by William George Armstrong. It was used to power a single arc lamp in his art gallery.
However, almost all electricity generation thereafter was based on burning coal. In 1964 coal accounted for 88% of electricity, and oil for 11%.The remainder was mostly hydroelectric power, which continued to grow its share as coal struggled to meet demand. The world's third pumped-storage hydroelectric power station, the Cruachan Dam in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, came on line in 1967. The Central Electricity Generating Board attempted to experiment with wind energy on the Llŷn Peninsula in Wales during the 1950s, but this was shelved after local opposition.
Renewable energy experienced a turning point in the 1970s, with the 1973 oil crisis, the 1972 miners' strike, growing environmentalism, and wind energy development in the United States exerting pressure on the government. In 1974, the Central Policy Review Staff recommended that ‘the first stage of a full technical and economic appraisal of harnessing wave power for electricity generation should be put in hand at once.’ Wave power was seen to be the future of the nation's energy policy, and solar, wind, and tidal schemes were dismissed as 'impractical'. Nevertheless, an alternative energy research centre was opened in Harwell, although it was criticised for favouring nuclear power. By 1978, four wave energy generator prototypes had been designed which were later deemed too expensive. The Wave Energy Programme closed in the same year.
During this period, there was a large increase in installations of solar thermal collectors to heat water. In 1986, Southampton began pumping heat from a geothermal borehole through a district heating network. Over the years, several combined heat and power (CHP) engines and backup boilers for heating have been added, along with absorption chillers and backupvapour compression machines for cooling.
In 1987 a 3.7MW demonstration wind turbine on Orkney began supplying electricity to homes, the largest in Britain at the time. Privatisation of the energy sector in 1989 ended direct governmental research funding. Two years later the UK's first onshore windfarm was opened in Delabole, Cornwall: 10 turbines producing enough energy for 2,700 homes. This was followed by the UK's first offshore windfarm in North Hoyle, Wales.
The share of renewables in the country's electricity generation has risen from below 2% in 1990 to 14.9% in 2013, helped by subsidy and falling costs. Introduced on 1 April 2002, the Renewables Obligation requires all electricity suppliers who supply electricity to end consumers to supply a set portion of their electricity from eligible renewables sources; a proportion that will increase each year until 2015 from a 3% requirement in 2002–2003, via 10.4% in 2010-2012 up to 15.4% by 2015–2016. The UK Government announced in the 2006 Energy Review an additional target of 20% by 2020–21. For each eligible megawatt hour of renewable energy generated, a tradable certificate called a Renewables obligation certificate (ROC) is issued by OFGEM.
In 2007, the United Kingdom Government agreed to an overall European Union target of generating 20% of the European Union's energy supply from renewable sources by 2020. Each European Union member state was given its own allocated target; for the United Kingdom it is 15%. This was formalised in January 2009 with the passage of the EU Renewables Directive. As renewable heat and fuel production in the United Kingdom are at extremely low bases, RenewableUK estimates that this will require 35–40% of the United Kingdom's electricity to be generated from renewable sources by that date,to be met largely by 33–35 GW of installed wind capacity. The 2008 Climate Change Act consists of a commitment to reducing net Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 80% by 2050 (on 1990 levels) and an intermediate target reduction of 26% by 2020.
The Green Deal is UK government policy, launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change on 1 October 2012. It permits loans for energy saving measures for properties in Great Britain to enable consumers to benefit from energy efficient improvements to their home.
The total of all renewable electricity sources provided for 14.9% of the electricity generated in the United Kingdom in 2013,reaching 53.7 TWh of electricity generated. In the second quarter of 2015, renewable electricity generation exceeded 25% and coal generation for the first time.
In 2013, renewables totalled 5.2% of all energy produced in the UK, contributing toward the 15% reduction target by 2020 set by the 2009 EU Renewable Directive, as measured by the Directive's methodology.By 2015, this rose to 8.3%.
In June 2017, renewables plus nuclear generated more UK power than gas and coal together for the first time. Britain has the fourth greenest power generation in Europe and the seventh worldwide. In 2017 new offshore wind power became cheaper than new nuclear power for the first time. The UK is still heavily dependent on gas and vulnerable to fluctuations in world gas prices.
Government figures show that low-carbon energy was used to generate more than half of the electricity used in the UK for the first time in 2018. The proportion of electricity generated by renewables in the UK grew to 33% in 2018.
|Technology||forecast made in 2010||forecast made in 2016||forecast made in 2020|
|River hydro (best locations)||6.9||5|
|CCGT with carbon capture||10.0||10||-||11.0||8.7||8.2|
|Wood CFBC / Biomass||10.3||7.5||8.7||-||9.8||9.8|
For comparison, CCGT (combined cycle gas turbine) without carbon capture or carbon costs had an estimated cost in 2020 of 4.7p/kWh (£47/MWh).Offshore wind prices dropped far faster than the forecasts predicted, and in 2017 two offshore wind farm bids were made at a cost of 5.75p/kWh (£57.50/MWh) for construction by 2022–23.
The "strike price" forms the basis of the Contract for Difference between the 'generator and the Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC), a government-owned company'and guarantees the price per MWh paid to the electricity producer. It is not the same as the Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) which is a first order estimate of the average cost the producer must receive to break-even.
Low-carbon generation sources have agreed "strike prices" in the range £50-£79.23/MWh for photovoltaic, £80/MWh for energy from waste, £79.23-£82.5/MWh for onshore wind, and £114.39-£119.89/MWh for offshore wind and conversion technologies (all expressed in 2012 prices).These prices are indexed to inflation.
With new interconnectors, specifically the ongoing construction of the NSN Link is expected to finish in 2020 after which the UK will get 1.4 GW of access to less expensive sources in the south Norway bidding area (NO2) of Nord Pool Spot.Similarly, Viking Link is expected to start operations in 2022, after which the UK will get another 1.4 GW of access to the less expensive west Denmark bidding area (DK1) of Nord Pool Spot.
Wind power delivers a growing fraction of the energy in the United Kingdom. By the beginning of February 2020, wind power production consisted of 10,429 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 22 gigawatts: 13,575 megawatts of onshore capacity and 8,483 megawatts of offshore capacity,having risen from 7,950 megawatts onshore and 4,049 megawatts offshore since 2015 The UK is ranked as the world's sixth largest producer of wind power, having overtaken France and Italy in 2012.
Polling of public opinion consistently shows strong support for wind power in the UK, with nearly three-quarters of the population agreeing with its use, even among those living near onshore wind turbines. Wind power is expected to continue growing in the UK for the foreseeable future. Within the UK, wind power is the second largest source of renewable energy after biomass.As of 2018, Ørsted (formerly DONG Energy) is the UK's largest windfarm operator with stakes in planned or existing projects able to produce 5 GW of wind energy.
2010 saw the completion of significant projects in the UK wind industry with the Gunfleet Sands, Robin Riggand Thanet offshore wind farms coming on-stream.
Due to the island location of the UK, the country has great potential for generating electricity from wave power and tidal power.
To date, wave and tidal power have received very little money for development and consequently have not yet been exploited on a significant commercial basis due to doubts over their economic viability in the UK.The European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney operates a grid connected wave power scheme at Billia Croo outside Stromness and a grid connected tidal test site in a narrow channel between the Westray Firth and Stronsay Firth.
Funding for the UK's first wave farm was announced by then Scottish Executive in February 2007. It will be the world's largest, with a capacity of 3 MW generated by four Pelamis machines and a cost of over 4 million pounds.In the south of Scotland, investigations have taken place into a Tidal Power scheme involving the construction of a Solway Barage, possibly located south of Annan.
A wave farm project to harness wave power, using the PB150 PowerBuoy has been completed by Ocean Power Technologies in Scotland and is under development off Cornwall at Wave Hub.
Gas from sewage and landfill (biogas) has already been exploited in some areas. In 2004 it provided 129.3 GW·h (up 690% from 1990 levels), and was the UK's leading renewable energy source, representing 39.4% of all renewable energy produced (including hydro).The UK has committed to a target of 10.3% of renewable energy in transport to comply with the Renewable Energy Directive of the European Union but has not yet implemented legislation to meet this target.
Other biofuels can provide a close-to-carbon-neutral energy source, if locally grown. In South America and Asia, the production of biofuels for export has in some cases resulted in significant ecological damage, including the clearing of rainforest. In 2004 biofuels provided 105.9 GW·h, 38% of it wood. This represented an increase of 500% from 1990.
At the end of 2011, there were 230,000 solar power projects in the United Kingdom,with a total installed generating capacity of 750 megawatts (MW). By February 2012 the installed capacity had reached 1,000 MW. Solar power use has increased very rapidly in recent years, albeit from a small base, as a result of reductions in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels, and the introduction of a Feed-in tariff (FIT) subsidy in April 2010. In 2012, the government said that 4 million homes across the UK will be powered by the sun within eight years, representing a target of 22 GW of installed solar power capacity by 2020. By February 2019, approx 13GW had been installed
As of 2012, hydroelectric power stations in the United Kingdom accounted for 1.67 GW of installed electrical generating capacity, being 1.9% of the UK's total generating capacity and 14% of UK's renewable energy generating capacity. Annual electricity production from such schemes is approximately 5,700 GWh, being about 1.5% of the UK's total electricity production.
There are also pumped-storage power stations in the UK. These power stations are net consumers of electrical energy however they contribute to balancing the grid, which can facilitate renewable generation elsewhere, for example by 'soaking up' surplus renewable output at off-peak times and release the energy when it is required.
Investigations into the exploitation of Geothermal power in the United Kingdom, prompted by the 1973 oil crisis, were abandoned as fuel prices fell.[ citation needed ] Only one scheme is operational, in Southampton.[ citation needed ] In 2009 planning permission was granted for a geothermal scheme near Eastgate, County Durham, but funding was withdrawn and as of August 2017 there has been no further progress. In November 2018, drilling started for a plant planning permission for a commercial-scale geothermal power plant on the United Downs industrial estate near Redruth by Geothermal Engineering. The plant will produce 3MW of renewable electricity. In December 2010, the Eden Project in Cornwall was given permission to build a Hot Rock Geothermal Plant. Drilling was planned to start in 2011, but as of May 2018, funding is still being sought.
Microgeneration technologies are seen as having considerable potential by the Government. However, the microgeneration strategy launched in March 2006was seen as a disappointment by many commentators. Microgeneration involves the local production of electricity by homes and businesses from low-energy sources including small scale wind turbines, and solar electricity installations. The Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006 is expected to boost the number of microgeneration installations, however, funding for grants under the Low Carbon Building Programme is proving insufficient to meet demand with funds for March 2007 being spent in 75 minutes.
Sustainable community energy systems, pioneered by Woking Borough Council, provide an integrated approach to using cogeneration, renewables and other technologies to provide sustainable energy supplies to an urban community. It is expected that the same approach will be developed in other towns and cities, including London.Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company based in Inverness are active in developing community-owned and led initiatives in Scotland.
An energy positive house was built in Wales for £125,000 in July 2015. It is expected to generate £175 in electricity export for each £100 spent on electricity.
Electricity generation is the process of generating electric power from sources of primary energy. For utilities in the electric power industry, it is the stage prior to its delivery to end users or its storage.
A power station, also referred to as a power plant and sometimes generating station or generating plant, is an industrial facility for the generation of electric power. Power stations are generally connected to an electrical grid.
Wind power or wind energy is the use of wind to provide mechanical power through wind turbines to turn electric generators for electrical power. Wind power is a popular sustainable, renewable energy source that has a much smaller impact on the environment compared to burning fossil fuels.
Microgeneration is the small-scale generation of heat and electric power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet their own needs, as alternatives or supplements to traditional centralized grid-connected power. Although this may be motivated by practical considerations, such as unreliable grid power or long distance from the electrical grid, the term is mainly used currently for environmentally-conscious approaches that aspire to zero or low-carbon footprints or cost reduction. It differs from micropower in that it is principally concerned with fixed power plants rather than for use with mobile devices.
The net capacity factor is the unitless ratio of an actual electrical energy output over a given period of time to the maximum possible electrical energy output over that period. The capacity factor is defined for any electricity producing installation, such as a fuel consuming power plant or one using renewable energy, such as wind or the sun. The average capacity factor can also be defined for any class of such installations, and can be used to compare different types of electricity production.
Energy use in the United Kingdom stood at 1651 TWh in 2019. In 2014, the UK had an energy consumption per capita of 34.82 MWh compared to a 2010 world average of 21.54 MWh. Demand for electricity in 2014 was 34.42 GW on average coming from a total electricity generation of 335.0 TWh.
The United Kingdom is one of the best locations for wind power in the world and is considered to be the best in Europe. By the beginning of September 2021, the UK had 10,973 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 24.2 gigawatts: 13.8 gigawatts of onshore capacity and 10.4 gigawatts of offshore capacity, the sixth largest capacity of any country in 2019. Wind power contributed 24.8% of UK electricity supplied in 2020, having surpassed coal in 2016 and nuclear in 2018. It is the largest source of renewable electricity in the UK. The UK Government has committed to a major expansion of offshore capacity by 2030.
The Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which aims to boost the number of heat and electricity microgeneration installations in the United Kingdom, so helping to cut carbon emissions and reduce fuel poverty.
The production of renewable energy in Scotland is a topic that has come to the fore in technical, economic, and political terms during the opening years of the 21st century. The natural resource base for renewable energy is high by European, and even global standards, with the most important potential sources being wind, wave, and tide. Renewables produced 97.4% of Scotland's electricity in 2020, mostly from the country's wind power.
Wind power in Germany is a growing industry. The installed capacity was 55.6 gigawatt (GW) at the end of 2017, with 5.2 GW from offshore installations. In 2019, a quarter of the country's total electricity was generated using wind power, compared to an estimated 9.3% in 2010.
Renewable energy commercialization involves the deployment of three generations of renewable energy technologies dating back more than 100 years. First-generation technologies, which are already mature and economically competitive, include biomass, hydroelectricity, geothermal power and heat. Second-generation technologies are market-ready and are being deployed at the present time; they include solar heating, photovoltaics, wind power, solar thermal power stations, and modern forms of bioenergy. Third-generation technologies require continued R&D efforts in order to make large contributions on a global scale and include advanced biomass gasification, hot-dry-rock geothermal power, and ocean energy. As of 2012, renewable energy accounts for about half of new nameplate electrical capacity installed and costs are continuing to fall.
As of December 2017, installed capacity of wind power in the European Union totaled 169.3 gigawatts (GW). In 2017, a total of 15,680 MW of wind power was installed, representing 55% of all new power capacity, and the wind power generated 336 TWh of electricity, enough to supply 11.6% of the EU's electricity consumption.
Solar power is a growing source in the Portuguese energy mix. At the end of 2020, solar power installed capacity totalled 1.03 GW and represented 3.6% of total power generation in 2020.
Colombia has 28.1 Megawatt installed capacity of renewable energy, consisting mainly of wind power. This supplies 1% of the country's needs. The country has significant wind and solar resources that remain largely unexploited. According to a study by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), exploitation of the country’s significant wind potential alone could cover more than the country’s current total energy needs.
Different methods of electricity generation can incur significantly different costs, and these costs can occur at significantly different times relative to when the power is used. The costs include the initial capital, and the costs of continuous operation, fuel, and maintenance as well as the costs of de-commissioning and remediating any environmental damage. Calculations of these costs can be made at the point of connection to a load or to the electricity grid, so that they may or may not include the transmission costs.
The United Kingdom has a National Grid that covers most of mainland Great Britain and several of the surrounding islands, as well as some connectivity to other countries. The electrical sector supplies power at 50 Hz AC, and ~240 volts is supplied to consumers. In 2020 the electricity sector's grid supply came from 55% low-carbon power, 36.1% fossil fuelled power, and 8.4% imports. Renewable power is showing strong growth, while fossil fuel generator use in general and coal use in particular is shrinking, with historically dominant coal generators now mainly being run in winter due to pollution and costs, and contributed just 1.6% of the supply in 2020.
As of 2018, hydroelectric power stations in the United Kingdom accounted for 1.87 GW of installed electrical generating capacity, being 2.2% of the UK's total generating capacity and 4.2% of UK's renewable energy generating capacity. This includes four conventional hydroelectric power stations and run-of-river schemes for which annual electricity production is approximately 5,000 GWh, being about 1.3% of the UK's total electricity production. There are also pumped-storage hydroelectric power stations providing a further 2.8 GW of installed electrical generating capacity, and contributing up to 4,075 GWh of peak demand electricity annually.
Energy in California is a major area of the economy of California. California is the state with the largest population and the largest economy in the United States. However, it is second in energy consumption after Texas. As of 2018, per capita consumption was the fourth-lowest in the United States partially because of the mild climate and energy efficiency programs.
Renewable energy in Taiwan contributed to 8.7% of national electricity generation as of end of 2013. The total installed capacity of renewable energy in Taiwan by the end of 2013 was 3.76 GW. As of 2020, the Taiwan government aims for a renewable share of 20% by 2025, with coal and gas providing the other 80%.
In 2018, Wales generated more than 50% of its electricity consumption as renewable electricity, an increase from 19% in 2014. The Welsh Government set a target of 70% by 2030. In 2019, Wales was the world’s 5th largest exporter of electricity, mainly to Ireland and England. The natural resource base for renewable energy is high by European standards, with the core sources being wind, wave, and tidal. Wales has a long history of renewable energy: in the 1880's, the first house in Wales with electric lighting powered from its own hydro-electric power station was in Plas Tan y Bwlch, Gwynedd. In 1963, the Ffestiniog Power Station was constructed, providing a large scale generation of hydroelectricity, and in November 1973, the Centre for Alternative Technology was opened in Machynlleth.
The UK has also had one of its least windy summers since 1961, meaning wind power has been low. Experts fear the situation will become worse as colder temperatures draw in.