The authoritative annual report on the UK renewable energy sector
Renewable energy growth challenged by continuing political uncertainties and future energy relationship with Europe 2016 has been the first year when the contribution from renewable energy to the total UK energy output has plateaued. The various elements: renewable electricity, heat and transport that contribute to the UK’s objective of 15% renewable energy by 2020 (Renewable Energy Directive (RED)) still, when combined, would likely give a value in line with the trajectory for the UK to remain on track. The target averaged across 2015/2016 is 7.47%. In 2015 the remarkable growth (>25%) in renewable electricity generation helped the UK achieve 8.3%. The final value for 2016 RED is anticipated to be slightly higher than the 2015 figure, however as the data for heat has yet to be finalised for 2016 and RED “normalised” data for electricity and transport have not been cconfirmed, the final confirmed figure will only be available in quarter three this year. At present only an initial Government estimate is available, at 8.9% of total energy. The generating capacity and output values quoted in this report describe 2016 actuals for electricity and transport and 2015 heat analysis as quoted by Digest if Renewable Energy Statistics (DUKES). According to the most recent data estimates the UK was supplied with 24.4% of its power and 2.9% of its transport fuel from renewable sources in 2016, renewable heat contributed 5.6% of total heat supplies in 2015 and 6.2% in 2016. The UK’s growth trajectory to meet this ambition for the next 4 years remains very steep – and continues to be one of the highest of any EU member state. Certain groups may argue that the RED target is of less relevance today following the referendum and that the UK Climate Change Act and its drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has taken prominence over meeting such targets. However, it is clear that much of the ability to deliver the 3rd and future Carbon Budgets relies on policies put in place to date including the assumptions that the RED targets WILL be met. It is difficult to conceive that the Government would wish to make such a clear “U-turn” on its legally binding commitments whilst in the throes of broader negotiations with the EU over Brexit, especially when it wishes to continue to demonstrate international leadership in Climate Change (and fulfil its commitment as a signatory of the COP21 Paris Agreement). Notwithstanding the above, there is a growing recognition and concern that the “on track” figure masks stark differences between the sectors and individual technologies. Looking at renewable electricity in more detail, the closure of the Renewables Obligation (RO) to new solar and onshore wind projects in March 2016 did lead to a surge in new capacity in the first half of the year. However the reduction in support for the Feed-in Tariff in late 2015 has stalled much of domestic deployment of solar and other technologies until the Government returned to make small adjustments for technologies like Anaerobic Digestion (AD). Some developments for roof top solar continued as costs for PV reduced and different business cases were starting to be made for commercial installations. So at the end of 2016, there was 34.7 GW of installed renewables capacity, a 14% (4.2 GW) increase on a year earlier. During 2016, projects planned for onshore wind in earlier years saw capacity increase by 1.4 GW, with several large sites opening, or continuing to expand during the year (Dunmaglass (94 MW), Dersalloch (69 MW) and the first 156 MW of Wales’s largest onshore wind farm, Pen y Cymoedd (256 MW on completion). Offshore wind capacity fell by 10 MW with the closure of the Beatrice Demonstration Project in early 2016.