A change in the weather may be coming in how we get our energy here in the UK. For the first time ever renewable sources of energy contribute a larger percentage to the UK’s usage than nuclear. In 2014 energy produced by renewable sources now accounts for nearly 20% of all energy used in the United Kingdom.
This inexorable move towards renewable energy is beginning to change the way that we get our electricity in this country. Nuclear power accounted for 19% of all energy used whereas the renewable sources such as wind, solar or tidal power made a significant jump to 19.2%. Total renewable electricity capacity at the end of the year stood at 24.2 GW, which was 4.5 GW, or 23%, more than the previous year.
Solar power alone is responsible for 6% of all the electricity produced in the UK, the industry has also seen a massive growth of 93% in its production, buoyed by 2.8GW increase over the last year. Solar energy powered 3.9 terawatt hours, TWh, of electricity. No other renewable energy source grew anywhere near as fast as this.
The largest solo contributor of the renewable energy sources in the UK last year was bioenergy, making up 36% of the total renewable power output last year. Onshore wind turbines accounted for 28% of the total, with offshore wind turbines sitting at 21% and hydropower adding 9% of its own. Renewable energy last year accounted for 64.4 TWh of renewable power in 2014.
In contrast to this, coal-fired power plants accounted for 29% of electricity generation, a number that seems large until it is revealed that this is a fall of 26% in the space of just a single year. That rapid decline leaves gas as the leading source of electrical power, accounting for 30.2% of electricity used in the United Kingdom.
Last year we actually consumed 4.3% less electricity than we did in 2013. We would like to think that is because we are all becoming more energy conscious but research suggests it is because of the increase in temperature and improved energy efficiency from providers and products.
The trend of an increased reliance on renewable energy and a move away from fossil fuels is encouraging with Doug Parr, the chief scientist for Greenpeace, stating, “Last year, U.K. carbon emissions fell dramatically while the economy grew faster than it has in any year since 2007.” Parr would continue to say, “This is further evidence, if it was needed, that efforts to cut carbon pollution and boost our economy can go hand in hand.”
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, echoed the same sentiments saying, “2014 was truly record breaking year for low carbon generation. Our plan to decarbonise the economy while it grows is working; we’ve reduced our emissions by 8%, increased the amount of electricity we’re getting from renewables and seen the economy grow at the same time.”
Davey went on to say, “It is crucial we continue to build a low carbon energy sector based on home grown sources, as it is crucial to improving our energy security, as well as stimulating economic growth and reducing emissions.”
This last year may mark a significant turning point in the energy business here in the UK. Our neighbour France are already independent from oil produced in the Middle East, why should we not move towards that goal? A goal of renewable energy across the board, a future where we do not need to pollute our planet and destroy our resources just to survive. A goal that I think is achievable.