UK reports 2019 was a record year for renewable electricity generation 

9th April 2020 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

In a report issued on April 9, the British Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy reported that, based on provisional figures, last year had been a record year for the production of electricity using renewable technologies in the UK. Renewable electricity generation last year was 8.5% higher than in 2018. 

In numbers, 2019 saw 119 TWh of electricity generated renewably, in comparison to 110 TWh the year before. This increase was ascribed mainly to increased capacity. While renewable technologies accounted for 33% of electricity generation in 2018, last year the proportion was 36.9%, an increase of 3.8 percentage points and a new record.

In 2019 offshore wind generation increased by 20%, to a record of 31.9 TWh, meaning that, over a decade, the country’s offshore wind generation had increased by ten times. Onshore wind generation also increased last year, in comparison to 2018, but only by 6.6%. That nevertheless resulted in a record figure of 32.2 TWh, or an increase of four times over ten years. 

The average wind speeds across the UK and its coastal waters were the lowest since 2012, but the country’s installed wind generating capacity increased significantly. In the case of offshore wind, capacity jumped 19%, while for onshore wind it went up 4.6%. However, at the end of 2018 onshore wind was still the biggest component of the country’s renewable electricity generating capacity, at 30%. The great increase in offshore capacity raised its share to 21%. But, when it came to the actual generation of electricity, onshore wind accounted for 27% of electricity produced renewably, while offshore wind provided 26.8%. And, in the second semester of last year, for the first time offshore wind generated more electricity than onshore wind.

However, the biggest source of British renewable electricity generation was bioenergy, accounting for 31%, although bioenergy only contributed 17% of renewable electricity capacity (with biomass being the biggest component of that, at 10%). Bioenergy generation in 2019 was 5.2% higher than in 2018, or, in numbers, an increase of 1.8 TWh to 36.6 TWh.

The UK also generated 12.7 TWh of electricity last year from solar photovoltaic (PV) energy, although this was a slight decline in comparison to 2018. This decline was the result of there being fewer sunlight hours in the UK last year – about 16 minutes a day less, on average, throughout the year. Total installed solar PV capacity actually rose by 3.8%, to a total of 13.8 GW, and solar PV ranked second only to onshore wind in terms of renewable electricity generation capacity, accounting for 29%. In terms of actual electricity generation, solar PV provided almost 11% of the country’s renewable power last year.

Other renewable energy technologies used in the UK include hydropower (contributing nearly 4% of capacity), and shoreline and tidal power (less than 0.1%). Not included in this report, nuclear energy accounted for some 19% of British electricity generation last year, meaning that zero-carbon technologies generated about 56% of British electricity in 2019.