renewable investment

British-based renewables produced more electricity than gas this winter

The UK renewable energy sector generated enough to power every home in the country through the winter, analysis has shown.

Renewably produced electricity this winter has displaced more than a third of the UK’s entire annual gas demand for power generation, according to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

Between October 1 and February 28, power generated by wind, hydro and solar reached 47TWh (terawatt hours), the research said.

In contrast, generating the same amount of electricity using gas power stations would have required around 95TWh of gas – equal to 110 tankers of liquified natural gas (LNG), which would have potentially increased net gas imports by more than 22 per cent, including gas imported via pipeline.

“We’re seeing the old electricity system give way to the new, with renewables becoming the backbone and displacing more and more gas," said Jess Ralston, head of energy at ECIU.

“Battery storage is ramping up faster than expected, boosting the UK’s energy security and leaving us less exposed to international gas markets.

“Lifting the ban on onshore wind will help, but with the US and the EU going gangbusters for renewables, eyes are on the government, the chancellor and the budget to decide on how the UK stays an attractive market for the investments that will ultimately bring down bills.”

On Monday, UK energy security secretary Grant Shapps met his US counterpart in London and committed the UK to greater energy independence through nuclear and renewables.

They said the huge rise in gas prices after the Russian invasion has shown the need to speed up the move away from fossil fuels and boost the transition to renewables and other green energy sources.

Emma Pinchbeck, Energy UK’s chief executive, said “we must do everything possible” to encourage and speed up investment in low-carbon power.

“This analysis confirms the ever-growing contribution that homegrown renewable generation is making to power our homes and our businesses," she added. 

“We’ve seen the effect that record wholesale gas prices have had on customers’ bills over the last 18 months and it’s underlined the urgency of expanding our supply of cheap, domestic, clean power in order to remove our dependency on expensive fossil fuels - which will strengthen the country’s energy security, cut bills and emissions and boost economic growth.”

A report released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed that global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide hit a record high in 2022, rising by 0.9 per cent to a record 36.8 billion tonnes.

"We still see emissions growing from fossil fuels, hindering efforts to meet the world’s climate targets," said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. 

The report also pointed out the enormous boost in earnings enjoyed by energy companies including Shell and BP as a result of the energy crisis. 

"International and national fossil fuel companies are making record revenues and need to take their share of responsibility," Birol said.

Most clean energy in the UK comes from wind power, which is most productive during the winter when winds are stronger.

In 2022, UK renewables provided 38 per cent of the country’s electricity generation and became a net electricity exporter for the first time since 2010. However, the country is still heavily dependent on gas, which supplies 40 per cent of its power and 85 per cent of its heating.

A recent report published by Energy UK, highlighted that the investment climate for low-carbon generation in the UK has deteriorated significantly in recent months and could even undermine the nation’s net-zero ambitions

Last month, engineering firms and consultancies spoke to E&T about the connection delays that they say are putting both the climate targets and energy security at risk.

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