UK’s renewable energy generation capacity grows at fastest rate in 20 years

by Jonathan Adams
renewable energy

Despite the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic the UK’s renewable energies generation capacity grew at its fastest rate in 20 years over 2020. A total of just shy of 280 gigawatts of new capacity has been added through a combination of new wind, hydro, solar and other renewables installations.

The total represented growth of 45% compared to the new renewables capacity that came online over the course of 2019. The 280 gigawatts total was also the largest total renewables capacity ever added to the grid over a single calendar year. The UK now has a total renewable electricity generation capacity of 2968 gigawatts.

Around 50% of current renewables capacity is contributed by hydro-electric power installations. However, most of the new capacity added in 2020 consisted of wind and solar. The 134 gigawatts of solar power added represented 23% growth on 2019’s total while the 114 gigawatts of electricity generated by new wind turbines is almost twice that brought online a year earlier.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) commented on the rise of wind and solar installlations:

“Wind and solar power are giving us more reasons to be optimistic about our climate goals as they break record after record. Last year the increase in renewable capacity accounted for 90 per cent of the entire global power sector’s expansion.”

Its recent Global Energy Review 2021 report the IEA noted that “renewables were the only energy source for which demand increased in 2020 despite the pandemic, while consumption of all other fuels declined”.

In a positive development for the international climate change cause, China is stepping up its commitment to expanding its renewables capacity. The huge nation accounted for half of new renewables capacity globally with the rush sparked by an urgency to complete projects before a planned phasing out of government subsidies. Renewable electricity generation is believed to now be competitive enough compared to fossil fuel alternatives that subsidies are no longer needed to support the investment case.

The IEA also noted that a combination of falling technology costs and government support continues to encourage growing renewables capacity across Europe, the USA, India, and Latin America. The international renewables trade body also doesn’t expect the pace of new installations added over 2020 to prove an outlier. It predicts another 270 gigawatts and 280 gigawatts of renewables generation capacity to be added internationally over 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Birol concluded:

“Governments need to build on this promising momentum.”

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