This year there has been a constant stream of negative news on climate change, focusing on how we are not doing enough to shift our energy generation to renewable sources. With this it is easy to get downbeat and see our future as all doom and gloom. But is this fair? If we take a deeper look it seems that the U.K. has made some significant progress already regarding renewable energy production in 2018.
In April the UK set a new record running for a 55-hour stretch without coal, and then promptly surpassed that with a 76-hour stint without the fossil fuel. The majority of the electricity was supplied by gas, wind and nuclear which could be hinting that the end is near for the traditional cornerstone of the UK’s energy generation. With falling costs in renewable generation and a government deadline for phasing coal out completely by 2025, many believe that more records will fall in the near future and that renewables will continue to supply more capacity to the national grid.
Wind generation smashed all records producing its highest quarterly output of 25TWH for the beginning of 2018. Including all low carbon power (wind, solar, biomass and nuclear) we saw that around 50% of total energy generation came from these sources, more than gas and coal combined. One success story in particular has been the world’s first floating wind farm, Hywind, which opened in Scotland last October. Hywind produced a capacity factor of 65-percent over the first three months of 2018, which is noticeably above on-shore wind (37-percent) and hydropower (45-percent). With wind and solar overtaking all of the UK’s nuclear power stations in capacity supplied at the end of last year this shows that renewable sources are making an ever increasing impact to the country’s energy generation!
Another first for the UK in 2018 has been the first energy trade using blockchain. Banister House Estate in Hackney saw energy from their solar panels being transferred to a resident in another block via Verv’s peer-to-peer energy trading platform. Verv’s smart hubs calculate energy demands in homes and direct any surplus solar energy to residents, resulting in lower costs for residents along with the efficient use of renewable energy. This shows the potential of community-based renewable energy production and consumption which we should expect to see more of in the future.
Looking towards the rest of the year and further, there is yet more to be optimistic about regarding UK renewable energy. Two of the UK’s eight coal plants will shut later this year leaving only six in operation. A new offshore wind farm in England that could power up to 300,000 homes is hoped to be completed by the end of 2018. Energy investment, which took a large hit after subsidies were reduced in 2016, is expected to bounce back with NatWest leading the way committing to lend £10bn to renewable ventures in the UK by 2020.
To date 2018 has shown that the UK is starting to make strides to meet their emissions targets of an 80% emissions cut by 2050. There is reason to believe that real change in our energy production is on the way! However, much more is needed if we are to achieve the much talked about figure of net-zero emissions put forward in the Paris Climate agreement, and to reverse the damage that we have been doing to our planet.
About the author
Alex Baker is a researcher at WMC covering areas relating to climate change and economic development. He is an Economics Graduate currently working and travelling throughout Europe and Asia.
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