UK renewables output drops

EBR Staff Writer Published 28 April 2017

New provisional data released by the UK government shows that the share of electricity generated through renewable sources dropped to 24.4% in 2016 from 24.6% in the previous year.

The decline of renewable power generation across the country in 2016 has been attributed by the government to lower wind speeds, scanty rainfall and lesser sun hours.

Electricity generated by gas sources increased to 42.4% in 2016 compared to 2015’s figure of 29.5%.

The UK managed to decrease its coal-based electricity generation last year considerably from 9.1% to 22.3%. Between 2015 and 2016, the government data reveals a drastic reduction by 60% in coal power generation.

As per the government, it was a record low generation of 30.7TWh owing to reduction in coal capacity, coal site closures and also the conversion of a unit at the Drax power plant from coal to biomass.

Overall, the electricity generation in the country in 2016 was 338.6Twh which represented a decrease of 0.2% in comparison to 339.1Twh generated in 2015.

According to the Renewable Energy Association (REA), the government data shows an urgent need to develop new electricity generation capacity.

REA CEO Nina Skorupska CBE said: “As ageing coal and nuclear sites come offline and electricity demand is set to increase, the NAO estimates that we need to deploy 81GW of new electricity generation capacity by 2035.

“This extraordinary figure is close to the entirety of our existing power generation capacity. If the Government wants to be building at the lowest cost it should be building large solar, onshore wind, and biomass, which are arguably cheaper than new gas generation yet their continued deployment has been blocked.”

Although the electricity generated decreased last year, the data shows a decline in domestic power consumption by 1% between 2015 and 2016. This was despite the two years seeing similar average temperatures, which indicates a surge in energy efficiency as per REA.

Consultation on district heating plan for Glenrothes

A public consultation is being held in Glenrothes on Thursday on plans to develop a local district heating scheme.

The ‘Glenrothes Heat’ scheme would see low carbon heat from the RWE Markinch biomass plant being used to heat homes, businesses and public sector premises locally.

Following a previous consultation event in March at Rothes Halls, a planning application has been submitted to Fife Council to build the necessary infrastructure.

The plans could see a significant reduction in local heating bills and carbon emissions, as well as securing the future use of the RWE’s CHP Biomass plant in Markinch.

Mid Fife & Glenrothes MSP, Jenny Gilruth, is encouraging her constituents to take part by going along to find out more.

She said: ‘‘These exciting plans could make a big difference to lives here in Mid Fife & Glenrothes. As

well as offering low-cost low-carbon heating, ‘Glenrothes Heat’ could help alleviate fuel poverty and support Scotland’s climate change targets by reducing local carbon emissions.

“I’d encourage everyone to get along to the consultation event to make sure their views are heard. This is a hugely exciting proposal and I’d be delighted if more constituents voiced their support for the project.”

The consultation and exhibition is on Thursday from 9.30am to 7pm at the Auchmuty Learning Centre in Glenrothes.

A potential £8.5million funding support from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Programme Fund has been secured in principle, and a further £7million from RWE Markinch Ltd could make the project a reality as early as January 2019.


MP hails SNP's record on North East investment

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has hailed the SNP’s strong record on investment in vital infrastructure across the North-East despite the impact of brutal cuts imposed by the Tory party.

The Scottish Government has made multi-billion pound investments in the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, the dualling of the A96 Inverness to Aberdeen, improvements in the Haudagain junction, improvements to the Aberdeen to Inverness rail line, delivery of significant investment in the roll out of superfast broadband coverage across rural areas and an additional £254million of investment as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal.

The Scottish Government also has a strong commitment to investing in the oil and gas sector and renewable energy, supporting long-term jobs for our communities.

But investment in the North-East would be significantly higher if the Tory government matched the SNP’s commitment to the area.

Not only has the Tory government failed to respond appropriately to the downturn in the oil and gas sector but in Banff and Buchan a promise to invest £1billion in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at Peterhead was dropped showing disdain for jobs and the local economy.

Dr Whiteford said: “I am proud that projects which were delayed for decades under previous governments, like the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, are finally becoming a reality – and will bring lasting benefits for people across the region for years to come.

“The SNP has always been committed to investing in the North-East economy, which is a real driving force for the whole of Scotland, and this commitment will continue in the years to come in the face of crippling Tory austerity and public service cuts.

“Instead the Tory government has failed in their duty to support the North East pulling £1billion in investment for CCS at Peterhead Power Station leaving the facility’s future in jeopardy.

“The choice facing voters across the North-East in both May and June is absolutely clear – do they want to elect a strong team of SNP representatives that will always stand up for the interests of the North-East, and a track record of delivering vital infrastructure projects such as the AWPR, new schools, improvements to the Haudagain junction, thousands of new affordable homes, support for both the renewables and oil and gas sectors, and an additional £254 million as part of the Aberdeen Region City Deal?

“Or do they want to elect Tory representatives who are obsessed with cutting our vital public services such as education and health and social care, slashing investment in the vital infrastructure projects that the North-East economy depends on, continuing to ignore the needs of the North Sea energy sector, and that are utterly desperate to pile misery on the most vulnerable in our society?"

Tory windfarm policy threatens cheap energy in UK, commission finds

Conservative opposition to windfarms risks the UK missing out on one of the cheapest sources of electricity, according to the head of a Shell-funded industry group.

Adair Turner, chair of the Energy Transitions Commission, said wind and solar power costs had fallen dramatically globally and urged the government to rethink its ban on subsidised onshore windfarms.

“We have to at least understand that a ban on doing onshore wind is giving up the opportunity of what is increasingly the cheapest form of electricity. I would not personally have that ban on onshore wind,” Lord Turner told the Guardian.

A report by the commission found that the cost of wind power had fallen by 60% in the past five years. The analysis predicted that by 2040, wind and solar would account for 45% of the global power mix, with hydro and nuclear making up another 35%.

“We’re basically saying by 2040, you can get the share of fossil fuel generation down to 20%, and that is quite ambitious,” said Turner. “What is distinctive is the group of people who are making that statement. It’s not just either industry or NGOs, it’s both.”

Membership of the commission, founded in 2015 to examine how energy systems can be changed to avoid dangerous global warming, includes the fossil fuel giants Shell and BHP Billiton, plus Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the investment manager Blackrock and the green thinktank the European Climate Foundation.

The group said that by 2035, wind and solar could provide 98% of power in developed countries such as Germany and the UK, with gas power stations or batteries providing backup. Nuclear would not grow its share because of cost, while progress on carbon capture and storage of emissions from coal and gas power stations had been “too slow”.

Of Donald Trump, who recently issued an executive order rolling back Barack Obama’s clean power plan, Turner said: “The Trump presidency is not good for climate change, we can’t pretend otherwise.” But he said renewable energy had such momentum in the US and globally that Trump would be unable to deliver a “fatal setback”.

UK operates coal-free for a day

The United Kingdom went without coal power for 24 hours on April 21, reported National Grid, the system operator for the country’s electric grid.

National Grid confirmed via Twitter that it had successfully supplied UK electricity demand without coal generation, adding that the average generation mix consisted about  50.3 percent natural gas, 21.2 percent nuclear, wind 12.2 percent wind, 6.7 percent biomass, solar 3.6 percent and 8.3 percent imports, the bulk of which were from France and the Netherlands.

National Grid said it was likely be the first continuous working day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution.

As part of its carbon reduction strategy and renewable energy goals, the UK government has pledged it will phase out all unabated coal-fired power stations by 2025. According to U.K.-based Carbon Brief, around 4 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity closed in 2016, leaving 15 GW still operating. Since 2010, 8.4 GW have closed.

According to trade association Energy UK, in 2015, 22 percent of the country’s electricity supply came from coal-fired power stations, nine of which are currently operating.

Fife town ready for potential new £20m district heating scheme

A major new multi-million pound district heating project, bringing affordable low carbon heat to homes and businesses in Glenrothes, could be a reality by the end of the decade.

A planning application has already been submitted by Fife Council for the construction of ‘Glenrothes Heat’, a heat distribution network utilising the output from the RWE-run biomass plant at Markinch.

And the public are being given the chance to see and comment on the ambitious project at a consultation event later this month.

The proposed heating scheme is designed to heat businesses, public facilities and offices and up to 372 homes in the town centre catchment area once fully operational.

As well as supporting business growth and reducing fuel poverty, the scheme will contribute to Scotland’s long term climate change targets and move to low carbon energy sources.

And with the support of the Scottish Government and applications for substantial funding currently being processed, the aim is to commission the project by September 2018 and make the first connections as early as January 2019.

Around £8.5m is expected to be secured from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Programme Fund, while £7m has also been committed by RWE Markinch Ltd who are partnering Fife Council on the project.

Once operational, Glenrothes Heat will mean a 10 per cent reduction in existing heating costs, and reduce environmental taxes for businesses and other public sector users.

The project will also help guarantee the future of the RWE’s CHP Biomass plant at Markinch, which has been looking to fulfill it’s supply potential since the demise of Tullis Russell paper plant in 2015.

Currently undergoing a 12-week consultation period, residents and business owners are being called upon to give their views and learn more about the scheme at a special public event being held at Auchmuty Learning Centre, Alexander Road, Glenrothes on Thursday, April 27 from 9.30am - 7pm.

UK 'bolsters' global green dream

UK companies working in the wind, wave and tidal energy sectors are exporting goods and services worldwide on a large scale, according to a new report from RenewableUK.

The report – ‘Export Nation: A Year in UK Wind, Wave and Tidal Exports – sampled 36 UK-based companies that signed more than 500 contracts to work on renewable energy projects in 43 countries last year.

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The contracts ranged in value from £50,000 up to £30m each and include Gaia-Wind in Glasgow, which is exporting small onshore wind turbines to Tonga, and JDR Cables, which is manufacturing subsea power cables in Hartlepool for German offshore wind farms, R-UK said.

The report noted that the UK is also exporting its knowledge, with renewable energy consultancies in Bristol, Newcastle, Colchester and Winchester, winning contracts to plan and oversee the development of wind farms and other renewable energy projects in countries such as USA, China, India, Chile, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and Mauritius.

R-UK executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: “We need to act swiftly to retain this competitive advantage or other nations will capitalise on the hard work our businesses have done to build opportunities.”

Image: JDR are manufacturing subsea cables for German offshore wind farms (JDR)

Report: UK firms tapping £290bn global renewables market

RenewableUK publishes study detailing how its members are taking advantage of massive export opportunities in the wind and marine energy market

UK renewable energy firms are consistently signing multi-million pound export contracts, securing themselves a foothold in a fast-expanding global market worth $290bn a year.

That is the conclusion of a new study from trade body RenewableUK, which assesses the export activity of an illustrative sample of 36 of its members in the wind, wave, and tidal energy sector.

The report found the companies had collectively signed more than 500 contracts to work on renewable energy projects in 43 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, Australasia, and the Americas.

The contracts covered in the sample ranged in size from £50,000 to £30m and were generated by both manufacturing and consultancy companies from across the country.

For example, Sustainable Marine Energy in Edinburgh is manufacturing tidal turbine platforms for a project in Singapore, while JDR Cables in Hartlepool is working on infrastructure for German offshore wind farms.

The government-backed wave and tidal test centres off the coasts of Cornwall and Orkney are also said to be generating export opportunities by attracting firms from around the world to test their technologies in real world conditions.

The report, entitled 'Export Nation: A Year in UK Wind, Wave and Tidal Exports', comes just weeks after the latest official data from the Office for National Statistics revealed exports for the UK Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Economy topped £4.11bn in 2015.

RenewableUK's executive director Emma Pinchbeck said the report confirms clean energy as a "great British success story", but warned the UK must maintain its leadership position in the global renewables market post-Brexit.

"We need to act swiftly to retain this competitive advantage or other nations will capitalise on the hard work our businesses have done to build opportunities," she said in a statement. "This year, as part of its Industrial Strategy, the government will be looking to identify and support world-leading, innovative industries with global trade potential. This report shows that the UK's wind and marine energy sectors can offer much to the government's Industrial Strategy. Britain must secure its position as a leading exporter in tomorrow's global energy market". 

Further reading

Energy UK Outlines Country’s Pathway To Low-Carbon Transition

Clean Power uk wind turbines

Published on April 21st, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill

April 21st, 2017 by

Energy UK, the country’s energy trade association, has published a report in which it outlines the necessary steps the industry believes the Government must take to transition to a low-carbon economy, including the need for energy efficiency to become a national priority for policy makers.

The need for strong policy certainty in the UK is a long way from reality, sadly, given the many machinations of the current Government, which has out-and-out attempted to weasel out of clean energy and climate targets, delayed necessary policy decisions, and will likely create further uncertainty as the country heads to a surprise general election. However, UK environmental and energy organizations are all attempting to mitigate the problems by imploring the Government to give some sign of how it will support the climate, environment, and energy industry moving forward. Just this week, a joint-letter signed by eleven organizations and numerous well-known advocates called on the UK Government not to “scale down” environmental measures in an imaginary effort to smooth post-Brexit trade deals. At the same time, renewable energy trade bodies in the UK called on the Government to ensure that clean technologies were apart of the long-awaited Industrial Strategy.

Joining the call, therefore, Energy UK — the country’s trade association for the energy industry as a whole — published a new report in which it outlines the industry’s vision and recommendations for how the Government should help to drive the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy. The new report, Pathways to a low carbon future, calls for “a whole system approach” to developing a low-carbon society which will require “a vision to take us through the transition and transformation necessary, with buy-in from government, all political parties, the public, business, and industry.”

“Our new report highlights the need for a long-term, certain and holistic policy framework that will ensure the UK meets its carbon targets at the least cost to consumers,” explained Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK.

“As the report from the Committee on Climate Change found only last month energy efficiency measures have already been cancelling out the low carbon policy costs for the typical household. The industry believes that energy efficiency should be a national priority to make the transition to a low carbon economy more affordable for both consumers and businesses.

 “To tackle climate change we need to have an honest debate about benefits and costs. All sectors including heat and transport need to work together and play their part in the same way the energy industry has done for decades.”

Among the key messages the report puts forward, it deems it most important that policies for power, heat, and transport are better coordinated, and that policy evolution does not undermine past, current, and future investment opportunities due to unforeseen regulatory changes. This is especially important as the transport and heat sectors are set to undergo an electrification which will increase the role of the power sector. As such, the authors of the report state that the country’s Electricity Market Reform program already provides “the right tools for the transition” and that competitive access to support schemes “ensures that the market can deliver at least cost to consumers.”

“Energy UK believes the power sector will continue to decarbonise, through a range of low carbon technologies,” the authors of the new report conclude. “Many of these technologies still require financing support to compete effectively with more traditional forms of generation. Setting out the funding available through the Contracts for Difference at least four years ahead of delivery will help provide investors with the information needed to get low carbon projects delivered.”

Further, delivering on their belief that energy efficiency needs to be a top priority, the report notes that “UK homes are highly energy inefficient compared with our European neighbours, if we want to meet our fifth carbon budget targets, much more needs to be done to reduce the amount of energy required to heat our homes.”

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Jaguar Land Rover CEO latest to warn of Brexit effects on UK industry

The chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover has become the latest business leader to warn on the effects of Brexit.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ralf Speth, said that his company might not be able to attract top engineers after Britain leaves the EU, due to higher immigration controls.

He told the programme that he is pushing for “free and fair access” to other EU markets as well as Turkey after the split.

Coventry-based JLR is a multinational company with operations in countries including India, China, Brazil, Slovakia and Austria.

Earlier this week, the company posted record-breaking annual global sales, according to media reports, smashing the 600,000 barrier for the first time in its history.

But experts have warned that the automotive industry may be one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of Brexit, due to its global exposure and its reliance on overseas talent.

The number of cars built in the UK hit a 17-year high last year and more cars are being exported than ever before, but in January the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders  warned that a failure to establish proper trade deals after Brexit could damage the industry “beyond repair”.

More than one in two cars produced in the UK in 2016 was exported to Europe, thanks to a 7.5 per cent increase in demand from the Continent.

Global appetite for British-built cars rose by 10.3 per cent to an all-time high of just over 1.3 million – a second consecutive annual record.