UK set to smash renewable energy targets for 2020

Reflecting the large-scale uptake of clean energy worldwide—with China and India spearheading the expansion in terms of consumption and production —the number of new solar panel installations throughout the UK has continued to rise.

A steady surge in the UKs solar panels market means the country is on course to achieve almost double its 2020 renewable energy target.

Reflecting the large-scale uptake of clean energy worldwide—with China and India spearheading the expansion in terms of consumption and production —the number of new solar panel installations throughout the UK has continued to rise.

Between January 2017 and 2018, over 67,500 new systems were fitted and registered with the Governments Feed-in Tariff (FIT), an incentive scheme that pays householders for the electricity they generate. The growth takes the overall number of installations to nearly 940,000.

Duncan McCombie, CEO of the award-winning energy efficiency firm YES Energy Solutions, supports the notion of people taking more control of how their energy is produced, but feels more needs to be done. He explained:

"Its great to see the continued deployment of solar panels across the county. More and more people are investing despite reductions in subsidies. A move to solar energy is now seen by many as a sensible investment, driving a modest and risk-free return, and a great way to reduce bills, live more sustainably and add value to properties and businesses.

"However, the industry still needs to do more to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and promote renewable energy technologies in a positive light, debunking the myths and providing support and accessible information. Manufacturing costs are dropping and renewable technology across the board is becoming more affordable. We just need to get the message out there."

The UK works to targets set by the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which says that by 2020 at least 15 per cent of the countrys energy must come from renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

With renewables already producing around one-quarter of the UKs electricity, current ambitions to double the 15 per cent goal by the turn of the decade look to be comfortably possible.

Solar photovoltaics are the leading technology in capacity terms at 11.9 GW, representing a third of total electricity capacity[1]. This comes despite the gradual dwindling of the financial incentives offered by the FIT and the closure of the Renewables Obligation, a similar scheme for larger renewable electricity projects such as solar farms. The FIT is also set to end in 2019.

For some, this retraction of government commitment heralds the beginning of a gloomier era for solar energy. Revising its forecasts for how many new solar panel systems will be installed in the UK up to 2022, the International Energy Agency predicts there will be 20 per cent fewer than the number fitted during the last six years.

Yet other signs point to a much brighter future for solar energy in the UK. Following the landmark opening in September 2017 of the countrys first subsidy-free solar farm in Bedfordshire, the solar industry continues to search for ways to develop schemes without the need for state support.

And renewable energy companies remain confident in what lies ahead. McCombie explained:

"Solar technology is improving all the time. With falling costs and increasing technological advances in areas such as storage at scale, theres likely to be a continued focus in getting renewable electricity. Over the next few years well see continued major advancements in battery technology, enabling householders to harness the energy their panels produce in the day and use it during the night, or to charge their electric cars. Soon batteries and solar panels will become an integral part of many domestic systems, helping residents capitalise on their savings and putting them in even more control of their energy."

Renewable Energy Use In Europe Didn’t Stop Carbon Emissions From Rising

The proliferation of renewable energy in the European Union in 2017 did not stop the majority of member states from increasing their carbon footprint.

The European Union had a 25 percent growth in wind power and a six percent increase in solar, however, carbon emissions rose by 1.8 percent in 2017, according to a report from Greentech Media. Malta experienced the highest increase, with a 12.8 percent rise. Estonia and Bulgaria came next, with an 11.3 and 8.3 percent increase, respectively.

Altogether, 20 EU member countries saw their carbon dioxide rates go up, while seven were able to cut their rates.

The numbers indicate that, despite massive investments into the renewable energy sector, reducing emissions is a tough task while undergoing job and population growth. Wind and solar have not been able to keep pace with the higher number of electricity consumers. Market expansion is making it all the more difficult for EU leaders who plan to slash carbon to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. (RELATED: Will More States Mandate Solar?)

“This worrying rise in emissions shows that while renewables continue to grow, the most polluting energy sources are not being eliminated quickly enough,” said Molly Walsh, a renewables campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. The numbers reveal the EU Emissions Trading System — the largest greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme around the world — is not doing a satisfactory job, Walsh stated, according to Greentech Media.

The emissions increase is also surprising considering the amount of money European leaders have spent in recent years to prop up the renewable energy sector and fight climate change.

Germany has paid a fortune to become an international leader in wind energy, but that hasn’t stopped the country from remaining Europe’s largest polluter. Germany has burned an estimated 189 billion euros — around $222 billion — on subsidies for renewable energy since 2000. Emissions have mostly remained at 2009 levels, despite the big financial commitment. The country managed a negligible 0.2 percent improvement from their 2016 carbon dioxide levels.

France established strong renewable energy targets. However, the country witnessed a 3.2 percent carbon emissions rise in 2017. Italy experienced the same rate increase. Spain enjoys robust wind, solar and hydro reserves, yet the country still saw its emissions rise by 7.4 percent, accounting for a 7.7 percent share of Europe’s total output in 2017.

The situation in Europe will likely get worse as the population continues to climb and a slate of nuclear plants begin to phase out.

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Glasgow heat firm eyes Aberdeen energy sources

Aberdeen’s rivers and seas are being eyed up by a Scottish renewable’s company as a lucrative energy resource.

Dave Pearson, director of Glasgow based cooling company Star Renewable Energy, yesterday said his firm could harness the power of the Don, the Dee and the North Sea with giant heat pumps.

Mr Pearson, who has 40 years’ experience in the industrial refrigeration sector, said: “If we harness local energy sources, such as a river, in Aberdeen’s case there’s three sources – The Don, The Dee and the North Sea – that heat can be harvested and delivered to the district heating networks that either exist of could be built in the city.

To read more on Energy Voice, click here.

Commitment to Cutting-Edge Renewable Energy Solutions on Display in Scotland

All-Energy 2018 Glasgow, the UK’s largest renewable and low-carbon energy exhibition and conference, began on May 2 having broken a record even before the doors opened. For the first time in the show’s history, four government ministers were scheduled to speak with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, delivering the keynote in the opening plenary session.

During the two-day event, more than 7,500 attendees were able to listen to and meet with more than 460 speakers—including the four ministers, and nearly 50 CEO’s and executives—and visit the stands of more than 360 exhibiting companies. Conference sessions were held covering new developments in offshore wind, in particular floating offshore wind; the state of the art as well as potential of wave and tidal energy; energy storage; hydrogen; and other solutions.

The conference has also highlighted the growing split between the Westminster government and Scotland, in particular with renewable energy development and deployment. Many presentations touched on frustrations with Brexit, the UK governments’ stance on onshore wind, and Scotland’s ability to achieve its own goals of adopting more carbon-free energy and achieving energy independence. On display at the large trade exhibition were hundreds of Scottish companies and organizations as well as international energy solution providers showcasing their latest offers.

Long an advocate of both clean energy and increased Scottish political independence, a passionate Nicola Sturgeon (Figure 1) delivered the keynote speech on Wednesday morning calling on the UK government to immediately reintroduce a route to market for more onshore wind projects. Saying it was “hard to articulate” her government’s frustration with Westminster over the latter’s ongoing embargo of price support for the sector, Sturgeon promised that “the Scottish government will continue to be a voice and help the UK government arrive at a decision to give a route to market to onshore wind … Not to do so would be a betrayal not just to this generation but to future generations,” she added.

1. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, delivered the keynote in the opening plenary session during All-Energy 2018 Glasgow. Source: Lee Buchsbaum

ScottishPower chief executive Keith Anderson was equally emphatic as he exclaimed, “I cannot believe I am standing here again asking for onshore wind support.” Citing the latest polling numbers that show 76% of Brits are in favor of onshore wind, he said “politicians should listen to the public. Scotland is driving green growth in the UK and the government’s priority should be securing the future of onshore wind.”

Despite these challenges, the UK offshore wind industry remains confident that it will secure a sector deal to support 30 GW of installed capacity by 2030. Offshore Wind Energy Council co-chairman Benj Sykes said the industry is aiming to have an agreement this summer. The proposed agreement requests “visibility” on future auctions that would support 2 GW of capacity annually for delivery beginning in 2024. In return, the industry has promised to increase direct employment from around 15,000 jobs today to 27,000 while boosting exports from £500 million to £2.6 billion. Siemens Gamesa UK director Clark MacFarlane said the industry is working on plans to develop “five or six” regions or clusters specializing in offshore wind.

Also announced was the Floating Wind Joint Industry Project (JIP) report that outlines technology challenges and prioritizes innovation needs for the sector in order to reach cost parity with other energy technologies. A summary of the main findings from the first phase of technical projects was launched on Thursday by Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

Lee Buchsbaum (, a former editor and contributor to Coal Age, Mining, and EnergyBiz, has covered coal and other industrial subjects for nearly 20 years and is a seasoned industrial photographer.