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UK Reports Major Renewable Energy Advancements in 2012

Britain has reached several major milestones in its development of renewables during the past year. It established a national Green Investment Bank and confirmed a reduction from one tradable Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) to 0.9 ROC/MWh for onshore wind – ending speculation over much deeper cuts, which had eroded industry confidence. This 10 percent cut was originally proposed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), but rumors that further cuts – up to 25 percent – were under consideration had driven leading wind turbine manufacturers to write to the energy minister, warning that continuing uncertainty was a risk to investment in the UK.

Despite this uncertainty, the UK crossed the 6-GW wind capacity milestone, and Marianne McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK, the trade association for the nation’s wind, wave and tidal industry, predicts that it will reach 8 GW by end 2012. 

According to reports, the British public supports renewables despite some political opposition driven by a desire to protect the countryside from wind farm development, and a recent media flap over an expected rise in energy prices during which wind turbines were publicly demonized. But a recent survey found that, in the service of meeting European renewable energy targets for 2020, over two-thirds of the British populace favors more wind turbines over shale gas.

DECC’s latest quarterly energy statistics, released in September 2012, revealed further proof that the UK is moving forward with renewable energy. According to the report, renewable electricity output in the UK rose 6.5 percent year-on-year to 8.13 TWh, while installed capacity grew a whopping 42.4 percent to 14.2 GW. Renewable energy’s share of the nation’s electricity mix has grown from 9 percent in Q2 2011 to 9.6 percent in Q2 2012. Output from offshore wind farms grew 47 percent to reach 1.64 TWh, bioenergy showed an increase of 6.5 percent to top at over 3 TWh, and solar photovoltaic and wave and tidal energy grew to 0.47 TWh.

In addition to continuing growth in all sectors and a more stable policy framework, renewables' advances in the UK include increasing awareness of the potential for marine energy, according to McCaffery. Among other advancements, The Marine Energy Array Demonstrator (MEAD) scheme, which was set up in 2011, opened in April 2012 and will provide capital support to project developers installing the first wave and/or tidal arrays of full-scale electricity generating devices in UK waters.

As RenewableUK prepares to hold its annual conference and exhibition next week (October 30-November 1) in Glasgow, the trade body celebrates the “extraordinary advances” made in the last 12 months. RenewableUK reports that 300 companies active in British wind, wave and tidal energy will exhibit at the upcoming show, which surely portrays a healthy industry.

Lead image: Renewable city via Shutterstock

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