BEIS has published its quarterly Energy Trends for April to June 2019. The publication compares the UK’s energy consumption trends and the fuel and generation mix across quarters in different years. Q2 2019 saw 35.5% of electricity generated by renewable resources. This was a record for the quarter, up 3.5% from the same quarter in 2018, largely thanks to increased generation capacity.
Coal continued to lose its share of generation, and Q2 2019 saw the longest period without its use since the 19th century, at 18 days and six hours. However, low-carbon generation (renewables and nuclear together) made up 52.6% of generation, down from 53.6% in the same quarter in 2018. The drop was caused by outages in nuclear reactors.
Liquid biofuels saw the highest growth (30%) in any renewable energy resource compared to the same quarter in 2018. The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation is an important factor in this growth: it sets biofuel blend-in mandates for the transport sector. It has recently aimed to double the use of renewable fuels in the UK from 2018 to 2033 (when biofuels should make up 12.4% of liquid transport fuels). The Renewable Energy Association views these blend-in mandate targets as unambitious in the context of persistently high, and stagnating, transport sector emissions.
Q2 2019 also saw the first period since 2010 without the Feed-in Tariff scheme accepting new participants. The Feed-in Tariff supported small-scale renewable generation by paying owners of qualifying installations (below 5 MW for solar photovoltaics) a fixed rate tariff for the electricity they exported to the grid. By the end of Q1 2019, around 6.6 GW in capacity existed across 986,000 installations. Capacity additions in small-scale renewable generation are uncertain in the policy vacuum left by the repeal of the FiT scheme – since Q2, there has been no mechanism that requires owners of such installations to be paid for their grid exports. BEIS’s Energy Trends do not detail the contribution of small-scale renewable generation to overall energy generation, but the impact of the FiT’s repeal on exports to the grid and system payback periods will no doubt be closely studied. The market-based Smart Export Guarantee (which demands that energy suppliers offer an export tariff rate of their choosing) is planned for introduction in January 2020.
Nick Fedson MEng MSc
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