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Can the UK generate two-thirds of power from renewables by 2030?

Posted by: James Turner
13/08/2020
Industry News

Can the UK generate two-thirds of power from renewables by 2030?

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has said that the UK should increase its renewable electricity target from 50% to 65% by 2030. This is off the back of the Business Secretary pledging 100% renewables by 2050.

The NIC advises the government on national investment priorities and carried out research earlier this month. 

The findings have led to the commission’s decision to update its recommended target for deployment of renewables as part of a low-cost, low carbon electricity system.

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The report noted that shifts in government policy to support more renewable electricity schemes as part of a green recovery would encourage private investment to drive innovation and could help provide confidence in the UK economy at a crucial time.

The NIC study found that the UK government has made a number of recent positive commitments on renewables deployment, including setting a goal to deliver 40GW of offshore wind power by 2030, and encouraging more onshore wind and solar power projects.

The commission welcomed these steps and recommended that “a refreshed pipeline” of contract for difference auctions should be set out to accelerate more offshore and onshore wind, and solar power projects.

The report also noted that renewables alone cannot create a resilient energy system for future decades, and that further work on new storage technologies, efficient interconnectors, and other innovations are needed to support renewables and ensure the security of the electricity system. It said this could include an increased role for low carbon hydrogen generation.

“The government should be credited for recent steps to encourage quicker deployment of renewables, and for setting up successful mechanisms for encouraging private sector investment,” said NIC chair John Armitt. “These latest projections suggest we can afford to go further, faster without hitting consumers in the pocket.

“The National Infrastructure Strategy needs to include a long-term policy on future energy that reflects these facts and helps deliver the green recovery we all want to see.”

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However, depending solely on renewable energy isn’t as straightforward as it seems. 

On Wednesday (12.08.2020), National Grid fired up a coal-fired power station for the first time in 55 days after Britain’s record-breaking heatwave brought wind turbines to a near-standstill.

Low wind speeds meant that electricity output from Britain’s wind farms, which generated 30% of the UK’s electricity in the first quarter of this year, fell to lows of 4% on Wednesday afternoon.

The UK recorded its hottest August day in 17 years as temperatures climbed to over 36C earlier this week, and hot temperatures set a new record for central London for the longest stretch of high temperatures in almost six decades.

Despite clear challenges in the reliance in wind energy, the UK still remains well-placed to lead the renewables charge.

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RenewableUK’s head of policy and regulation Rebecca Williams said: “The NIC is right to raise its ambition on renewables but we can go even further and even faster. Wind alone can generate more than 50% of the UK’s electricity by 2030, so their new 65% target for renewables overall could go even higher.

“We welcome the NIC’s call for annual auctions for contracts to generate renewable power, but the most important step that government could take would be to lift the cap on the amount of new renewable energy capacity we can procure in each auction. This would allow us to maximise the benefits of cheap renewable power for consumers, cutting bills.

“The NIC is also urging the government to remove barriers to growth – this has to include a new visionary cross-departmental plan for ministries to work more closely together, to put the goal of net zero emissions at the heart of everything they do when formulating new policies.

“We also need to see better resourcing for bodies like nature conservation organisations which are involved in the planning process, so that they’re properly resourced to make the right decisions more swiftly.” Full stories here & here.

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