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15% of electricity from renewables

Almost 15% of the UK's electricity was generated from renewables last year, official figures show.

The statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show a 30% increase in the power coming from renewables in 2013, bringing the share of electricity from sources such as wind, hydropower and biomass up to 14.9%.

More than a third (36%) of the country's electricity was generated from coal, with 27% coming from more expensive gas, and 20% from nuclear power.

The amount of installed renewable capacity was up 27% on 2012, the figures showed, with another 4.2 gigawatts of renewables on the system.

This was mostly due to a 27% increase in onshore wind, with an extra 1.6 gigawatts installed, and a 59% or 1 gigawatt increase in solar electricity panels, both in small scale domestic and community arrays and large scale solar farms,

The statistics showed that both offshore and onshore wind farms were as efficient as gas-fired power stations, operating at the same or higher percentage of their capacity as gas plants.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "The Government's investment in renewable energy is paying off: renewable electricity has more than doubled in just four years - with around 15% of Britain's electricity already coming from clean renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro.

"This massive investment in green energy is accelerating, with 2013 a record year, with almost £8 billion invested across range of renewable technologies.

"Having a strong UK renewable sector helps to reduce our foreign imports of energy, improving our energy security, as well as helping us tackle climate change and creating new hi-tech green jobs.

"A green energy future that once seemed impossible for Britain is fast becoming a reality."

Some 5.2% of total energy consumption, which includes heating and transport as well as electricity, came from renewables, up from 4.2% the previous year. The UK has a legally-binding EU target to source 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020.

Once differences in temperature, including the very cold start to 2013, are taken into account, total energy consumption was down slightly, by 0.3%, continuing a downward trend over the last nine years.

The statistics showed a fall in production of natural gas, oil and coal in 2013, and that energy imports reached record levels in 2013, up 2.3% from 2012.

While much of the focus on Europe's energy security in light of tensions with Russia over the situation in Ukraine has been on gas, the figures reveal that Russia is a key source of coal for the UK.

The UK imported two fifths (41%) of its coal from Russia in 2013, 25% from the US and 23% from Colombia.

But there was a drop in the amount of electricity coming from coal, down three percentage points on 2012, and major power producers used 7.4% less coal in 2013 as a result of lower demand and more renewables, the statistics showed.

Industry body RenewableUK's director of policy, Dr Gordon Edge, said: "This abundance of excellent statistics should make those in Government who have failed to support wind energy sit up and take notice.

"More than half of Britain's clean electricity now comes from onshore and offshore wind. We're now on course to hit 10% of electricity from wind alone this year.

"That's why it's particularly puzzling to see some politicians fail to back the cheapest and most successful renewable technology - onshore wind - at a time when a majority of voters from all the main parties are telling them that they support it.

"Many will ask why some Government ministers act as cheerleaders for technologies like fracking for shale gas that can only deliver supplies years down the line, when wind is delivering here and now, onshore and offshore, keeping all our bills down by becoming more cost effective year after year."

Jenny Banks, energy and climate specialist at WWF UK, said: "We welcome the news that renewables are providing 15% of the UK electricity with over half of this coming from wind and solar, but we are alarmed that electricity from coal is still stubbornly high at 36%.

"The Government is justifiably proud of its record of pushing for tough climate action on the international stage. Yet their new capacity market seems designed to help keep our inefficient and polluting old coal power plants burning dirty coal for years to come.

"If this or future governments want to retain their credibility on climate change on the international stage then they must sort out the coal problem in their own back yard."

Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: "It's fantastic to see renewable energy making such a huge contribution to powering our economy, and tackling climate change - and with more government support it could deliver much more.

"The old, dirty model of energy production is crumbling away, but ministers have still not updated their thinking.

"Instead of backing coal and blighting Britain with the threat of fracking the Government should be driving forward renewables like wind, and promoting local energy solutions such as solar for our schools, communities and cities."


From Belfast Telegraph