Nearly 15 per cent of the UK's electricity was generated from renewables last year, official figures show.
The statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show a 30 per cent increase in the power coming from renewables in 2013, bringing the share of electricity from sources such as wind, hydropower and biomass up to 14.9 per cent.
The amount of installed renewable capacity was up 27 per cent on 2012, the figures showed, with another 4.2GW of renewables on the system, mostly due to a 27 per cent increase in onshore wind, with an extra 1.6GW installed, and a 59 per cent or 1GW increase in solar electricity panels, both in small scale domestic and community arrays and large scale solar farms.
The statistics also showed that both offshore and onshore wind farms were operating at the same or higher percentage of their capacity as gas-fired power stations – offshore wind had a load factor of 37.5 per cent and onshore wind achieved 27.9 per cent, compared to 27.9 per cent for gas.
The rest of the UK’s generation was made up from non-renewable sources – 36 per cent came from coal, with 27 per cent coming from more expensive gas, and 20 per cent from nuclear power.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "The Government's investment in renewable energy is paying off – renewable electricity has more than doubled in just four years with around 15 per cent of Britain's electricity already coming from clean renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro.
"This massive investment in green energy is accelerating, with 2013 a record year, with almost £8bn invested across range of renewable technologies.
"Having a strong UK renewable sector helps to reduce our foreign imports of energy, improving our energy security, as well as helping us tackle climate change and creating new hi-tech green jobs. A green energy future that once seemed impossible for Britain is fast becoming a reality."
Some 5.2 per cent of total energy consumption, which includes heating and transport as well as electricity, came from renewables, up from 4.2 per cent the previous year. The UK has a legally-binding EU target to source 15 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.
Once differences in temperature, including the very cold start to 2013, are taken into account, total energy consumption was down slightly, by 0.3 per cent, continuing a downward trend over the last nine years.
The statistics showed a fall in production of natural gas, oil and coal in 2013, and that energy imports reached record levels in 2013, up 2.3 per cent from 2012.
While much of the focus on Europe's energy security in light of tensions with Russia over the situation in Ukraine has been on gas, the figures reveal that Russia is also a key source of coal for the UK – 41 per cent of imports came from Russia in 2013, 25 per cent from the US and 23 per cent from Colombia.
But there was a drop in the amount of electricity coming from coal, down three percentage points on 2012, and major power producers used 7.4 per cent less coal in 2013 as a result of lower demand and more renewables, the statistics showed.
Industry body RenewableUK's director of policy, Dr Gordon Edge, said: "This abundance of excellent statistics should make those in Government who have failed to support wind energy sit up and take notice.
"More than half of Britain's clean electricity now comes from onshore and offshore wind. We're now on course to hit 10 per cent of electricity from wind alone this year.
"That's why it's particularly puzzling to see some politicians fail to back the cheapest and most successful renewable technology – onshore wind – at a time when a majority of voters from all the main parties are telling them that they support it.
"Many will ask why some Government ministers act as cheerleaders for technologies like fracking for shale gas that can only deliver supplies years down the line, when wind is delivering here and now, onshore and offshore, keeping all our bills down by becoming more cost effective year after year."
Jenny Banks, energy and climate specialist at WWF UK, said the Government could be “justifiably proud” of the figures and its role promoting green energy on the global stage, but expressed concern that coal generation was still so high and questioned whether the capacity market recently approved by the EU would help to prop up the coal industry in future years.
“Their new capacity market seems designed to help keep our inefficient and polluting old coal power plants burning dirty coal for years to come,” she said. "If this or future governments want to retain their credibility on climate change on the international stage then they must sort out the coal problem in their own back yard."
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