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 new 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.
In 2017 renewable production generated:
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 unrecoreded 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.
However, almost all electricity generation thereafter was based on burning coal. In 1964 coal accounted for 88% of electricity, oil 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.
|Technology||forecast made in 2010||forecast made in 2016|
|2011 estimate||2040 central projection||2020 estimate||2025 estimate|
|River hydro (best locations)||6.9||5|
|CCGT with carbon capture||10.0||10||-||11.0|
|Wood CFBC / Biomass||10.3||7.5||8.7||-|
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 and at the beginning of January 2015, wind power in the United Kingdom consisted of 6,546 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of just under 12 gigawatts: 7,950 megawatts of onshore capacity and 4,049 megawatts of offshore capacity. The United Kingdom 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 for people living near onshore wind turbines. Wind power is expected to continue growing in the UK for the foreseeable future, RenewableUK estimates that more than 2 GW of capacity will be deployed per year for the next five years. Within the UK, wind power is the second largest source of renewable energy after biomass. In 2016 Dong Energy is the UK's largest windfarm operator with stakes in planned or existing projects able to produce 5 GW wind energy. Dong Energy's chief executive has confirmed plans to sell company's oil and gas division.
2010 saw the completion of some significant projects in the UK wind industry with the Gunfleet Sands, Robin Rigg and Thanet offshore wind farms coming on stream. Over 1.1 GW of new wind power capacity was brought online during 2010, a 3% increase on 2009. There was a 38% drop in onshore installations to 503 MW compared with 815 MW in 2009 but there was a 230% increase in offshore installations with 653 MW installed (compared with 285 MW in 2009).
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 side 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.
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 22,000 MW of installed solar power capacity by 2020.
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. Only one scheme is operational, in Southampton. 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 2006 was 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.
Blackhillock Substation is an electrical substation located in the north east of Scotland, near the town of Keith in Moray.
It is owned and operated by Scottish Southern Electricity Network (SSEN). Covering an area the size of 24 football pitches, it is as of January 2019, the UK's largest substation and Europe's second biggest.Construction began in early 2015 to upgrade the existing substation so it could accommodate the new Caithness - Moray Subsea link. The £1bn construction project had four main elements: 400kV and 232kV gas-insulated substations, one 275kV air-insulated substation, a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) converter for the Caithness - Moray subsea link and a HVDC underground cable from the substation to Portgordon. In January 2019 construction and commissioning were completed making it the UK's largest operating substation. It is seen as integral to the UK electricity grid as the north of Scotland generates much renewable energy via windfarms. The upgrade was primarily done to accommodate the Beatrice Windfarm which once completed, will be Europe's biggest offshore wind farm.BritNed
BritNed is a high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) submarine power cable between the Isle of Grain in Kent, the United Kingdom; and Maasvlakte in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The BritNed interconnector would serve as a vital link for the foreseeable European super grid project.Feed-in tariffs in the United Kingdom
A Feed-in tariff is when payments are given by energy suppliers if a property or organisation generates their own electricity using technology such as solar panels or wind turbines.Feed-in tariffs in the United Kingdom were announced in October 2008 and took effect from April 2010. They were entered into law by the Energy Act of 2008.Geothermal power in the United Kingdom
The potential for exploiting geothermal energy in the United Kingdom on a commercial basis was initially examined by the Department of Energy in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. Several regions of the country were identified, but interest in developing them was lost as petroleum prices fell. Although the UK is not actively volcanic, a large heat resource is potentially available via shallow geothermal ground source heat pumps, shallow aquifers and deep saline aquifers in the mesozoic basins of the UK. Geothermal energy is plentiful beneath the UK, although it is not readily accessible currently except in specific locations.Green electricity in the United Kingdom
Green electricity in the United Kingdom. There are a number of suppliers offering green electricity in the United Kingdom. In theory these types of tariffs help to lower carbon dioxide emissions by increasing consumer demand for green electricity and encouraging more renewable energy plant to be built. Since Ofgem's 2014 regulations there are now set criteria defining what can be classified as a green source product. As well as holding sufficient guarantee of origin certificates to cover the electricity sold to consumers, suppliers are also required to show additionality by contributing to wider environmental and low carbon funds.
Care needs to be taken in selecting a green energy supplier. A National Consumer Council report in December 2006 concluded that many green tariffs are not delivering the environmental benefits they claim to, and that consumers may not be making the positive contribution they think they are.List of offshore wind farms in the United Kingdom
This is a list of offshore wind farms within the national maritime boundaries of the United Kingdom.
The name of the wind farm is the name used by the energy company when referring to the farm; it is usually related to the name of the nearest town on shore. There are currently c.5-6GW of offshore wind in the UK, with a further 4-5GW having secured development contracts.List of renewable resources produced and traded by the United Kingdom
This list of renewable resources produced and traded by the United Kingdom presents various renewable resources such as crops for food or fuel, livestock and wood with accompanying information being given on its production and trade by the United Kingdom.
(For non-renewable resources of the United Kingdom see: Coal mining in the United Kingdom, Hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom, Mining in the United Kingdom and North Sea oil).Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation
The Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) refers to a collection of orders requiring the electricity Distribution Network Operators in England and Wales to purchase electricity from the nuclear power and renewable energy sectors. Similar mechanisms operate in Scotland (the Scottish Renewable Orders under the Scottish Renewables Obligation) and Northern Ireland (the Northern Ireland Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation).
Five orders were made under the NFFO before the UK government replaced it with the Renewables Obligation, the first order or 'tranche' was on October 1, 1990 with an average price of 7.51 pence per kWh being paid to renewable energy generators, the fifth and last was in September 1998 at an average of 2.71 pence per kWh. Although the Renewables Obligation is now the Government’s main mechanism for expanding the renewables sector, the last of the existing orders will continue in effect until it expires in 2018. Contracts resulting from the first two tranches however terminated in 1998, allowing generators from these rounds to now sell electricity under the new mechanism.North Sea Offshore Grid
The North Sea Offshore Grid, officially the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative (NSCOGI), is a collaboration between EU member-states and Norway to create an integrated offshore energy grid which links wind farms and other renewable energy sources across the northern seas of Europe. It is one of several proposed European super grid schemes.Outline of the United Kingdom
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; a sovereign state in Europe, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK), or Britain. Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, it includes the island of Great Britain—a term also applied loosely to refer to the whole country—the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islandsRenewableUK
RenewableUK, formerly known as the 'British Wind Energy Association' (BWEA), is the trade association for wind power, wave power and tidal power industries in the United Kingdom. RenewableUK has over 660 corporate members, from wind, wave and tidal stream power generation and associated industries.
The association carries out research, and co-ordinates statistics and intelligence on marine and wind power in the UK and its waters. It also represents its members internationally, and to Government, regional bodies and local authorities in the UK.Renewable Energy Association
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) is a trade association for the (overall) renewables industry in the UK. The REA covers renewable power, heat, and transport. The REA is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. The REA is primarily funded from member subscriptions.Renewable Energy Systems
The RES Group (Renewable Energy Systems) is a global renewable energy company which has been active in the renewable energy industry for over 30 years. Its core business is to develop, construct and operate large-scale, grid-connected renewable energy projects worldwide for commercial, industrial and utility clients. RES is active in the wind (onshore and offshore wind) and solar energy sectors and is increasingly focussed on the transition to a low-carbon economy providing transmission, energy storage and demand side management expertise.Renewable Fuels Agency
The Renewable Fuels Agency (or RFA) was a UK Government non-departmental public body, created by the Department for Transport to implement the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation or RTFO. The Agency ceased to exist at midnight on 31 March 2011
The Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) was the UK’s independent sustainable fuels regulator. The agency awards Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs) to suppliers of biofuels in the UK, ensures companies meet their annual obligations and runs the RTFO’s carbon and sustainability reporting system.Renewable energy in Ukraine
In Ukraine, the share of renewables within the total energy mix is still very small, but is growing fast. Total installed capacity of renewable energy installations more than doubled in 2011 and as of 2012 stands at 397 MW. In 2011 several large solar power stations were opened in Ukraine, among them Europe's largest solar park in Perovo, (Crimea). Ukrainian State Agency for Energy Efficiency and Conservation forecasts that combined installed capacity of wind and solar power plants in Ukraine could increase by another 600 MW in 2012. According to Macquarie Research, by 2016 Ukraine will construct and commission new solar power stations with a total capacity of 1.8 GW, almost equivalent to the capacity of two nuclear reactors.The Economic Bank for Reconstruction and Development estimates that Ukraine has great renewable energy potential: the technical potential for wind energy is estimated at 40 TWh/year, small hydropower stations at 8.3 TWh/year, biomass at 120 TWh/year, and solar energy at 50 TWh/year. In 2011, Ukraine's Energy Ministry predicted that the installed capacity of generation from alternative and renewable energy sources would increase to 9% (about 6 GW) of the total electricity production in the country.It is envisaged to increase the share of renewable energy in the total balance of installed capacities to the level of about 20 percent by 2020, which in the baseline scenario is 12.1 GW (including large hydroelectric power plants), and the volume of electricity production is 25 TWh.Renewables Obligation (United Kingdom)
The Renewables Obligation (RO) is designed to encourage generation of electricity from eligible renewable sources in the United Kingdom. It was introduced in England and Wales and in a different form (the Renewables Obligation (Scotland)) in Scotland in April 2002 and in Northern Ireland in April 2005, replacing the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation which operated from 1990.The RO places an obligation on licensed electricity suppliers in the United Kingdom to source an increasing proportion of electricity from renewable sources, similar to a renewable portfolio standard. In 2010/11 it is 11.1% (4.0% in Northern Ireland). This figure was initially set at 3% for the period 2002/03 and under current political commitments will rise to 15.4% (6.3% in Northern Ireland) by the period 2015/16 and then it runs until 2037 (2033 in Northern Ireland). The extension of the scheme from 2027 to 2037 was declared on 1 April 2010 and is detailed in the National Renewable Energy Action Plan. Since its introduction the RO has more than tripled the level of eligible renewable electricity generation (from 1.8% of total UK supply to 7.0% in 2010).SSE plc
SSE plc (formerly Scottish and Southern Energy plc) is an energy company headquartered in Perth, Scotland. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange, and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. SSE operates in United Kingdom and Ireland.
It is involved in the generation and supply of electricity and gas, the operation of gas and telecoms networks and other energy related services such as gas storage, exploration and production, contracting, connections and metering. SSE is considered as one of the "Big Six" companies which dominate the energy market in the United Kingdom.Solar power in the United Kingdom
Solar power represented a very small part of electricity production in the United Kingdom (UK) until the 2010s when it increased rapidly; because for most of that decade new installations were subsidized with a feed-in tariff (FIT), and also because of the falling cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels.
As of 2019 installed capacity was over 13GW, with the 72MW(DC) Shotwick Solar Farm being the largest in the UK, however peak generation was less than 10GW. As panels have a capacity factor of around 10% in the UK climate, average annual generation is roughly the installed capacity multiplied by 1000 hours, being slightly under 13 TWh in 2018, somewhat under 5% of UK electricity consumption.Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network
Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) based in Wadebridge, Cornwall, is a grass roots social enterprise aiming to transform the area into the first solar powerered and renewable energy powered town in the UK.
The group plans to install 1 MW peak capacity of solar panels; with ten installations already in place and another ninety planned they hope to generate at least a third of its electricity from solar and wind power by 2015.The WREN Steering Group consists of residents, councillors from Cornwall Council and Wadebridge Town Council, together with representatives of the Wadebridge Chamber of Commerce.The scheme could also generate £450,000 a year for the town with money coming from a Feed-in tariff which offers a premium price for renewable energy.
The county council has granted planning permission for four new solar farms and sent plans for a further five out for consultation.
In February 2012 the WREN project was awarded £68,000 as part of the coalition Government's Local Energy Assessment Fund and in May 2012 won an award for Best Third Sector Business in the 2012 Cornwall Business Awards.In 2013 Stephen Frankel (chairman of WREN) was named South West Sustainable Energy Champion at an award ceremony in Bath.