In a good news story just in time for Christmas, the latest government data shows further growth in national renewable electricity capacity and production, writes NFU expert Dr Jonathan Scurlock.
With a fall in coal use for power generation, coupled to improving energy efficiency across the economy, this is likely to result in significantly lower UK greenhouse gas emissions, following the trend set by other EU countries like Germany.
Wind and biomass power generation in the period July-September were both significantly up on 2013, with solar PV also making a noticeable contribution.
Renewable electricity capacity is now over 23 gigawatts – amounting to about one-quarter of all UK power stations. Meanwhile a BBC study has shown UK consumers are using 10% less energy than just five years ago, due to improvements in energy efficiency of homes and appliances.
Clean energy ‘trending’ has been bolstered by news that the largest solar farm to date on agricultural land (48 megawatts) has been commissioned near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, that Britain’s wind power fleet has now breached the 12-gigawatt mark (three times the capacity of Drax power station in Yorkshire), and that a 400-megawatt tidal stream power project is to start construction in January off the Caithness coast in Scotland.
The UK transition to a low-carbon economy may now be firmly unde way, with green growth happening almost in spite of government policy rather than because of it - but the road will be rocky, as many solar, wind and biogas interests can testify.
Recent gloomy announcements from North Sea oil companies have only underlined how sensitive our economy can be to volatility in energy prices. The growing shift towards more predictable, reliable (and ultimately, falling) renewable energy costs would be appear to be a welcome development.