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Renewable energy playing a bigger part
A LONG-AWAITED update to the Renewable Energy Roadmap, published over the Christmas and New Year break, finally recognises solar PV – for dramatic increases in deployment and popularity (not least with farmers and growers) matched only by rapidly falling costs.
Commenting on the update, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Largescale solar electricity is increasingly within our grasp. Renewable energy is increasingly powering the UK’s grid – and the economy too.
“It’s a fantastic achievement that more than ten per cent of our power now comes from renewables, given the point from which we started in 2011. Right now, getting new infrastructure investment into the economy is crucial to driving growth and supporting jobs across the country.
“I am determined that we get ahead in the global race on renewable and build on the big-money investments we saw last year.”
Energy Minister John Hayes said: “Energy is crucial to our economic well-being, bringing in major investment and supporting jobs across the country.
“I firmly believe that a diverse energy mixture is the best way to ensure our energy security. It is extremely encouraging that we have made such positive steps on renewable energy as part of that mixture.”
The Roadmap shows that in the last year, the costs of many renewable technologies have fallen. For example, the cost of solar PV has fallen by 50 per cent, with the technology now identified as a key technology in the Roadmap update.
Official statistics record that at least 1,400 megawatts of solar capacity is grid-connected in the UK, more than a five-fold increase on the previous year, and a further 1,000 MW of large-scale solar farms are likely to be commissioned before the end of March.
DECC projections indicate a potential of up to 20 GW (gigawatts) of solar power across UK rooftops and fields by the end of the decade, producing as much as four to five per cent of all electricity, with up to eight GW expected by 2015.
This is not unrealistic – Germany already has more than 30 GW of solar PV capacity and many other parts of the EU already meet five to ten per cent of their electricity needs from the sun.
Newly-published government energy statistics also show that renewable electricity production is approaching 12 per cent of UK needs.
The majority is from onshore and (increasingly) offshore wind power, as well as bioenergy, but a rapidlygrowing contribution is also being made by solar PV. According to Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of trade association RenewableUK: “Renewables are expected to generate more of our electricity than nuclear power by 2016.”
Overall, the UK is just about meeting its Brussels-mandated trajectory towards providing 15 per cent of all energy from renewables by 2020, with an overall energy contribution of about four per cent expected for 2012.
However, most other EU member states are already exceeding their Renewable Energy Directive targets, leaving the UK still in the “relegation zone” of the European green energy league table.