By Simon Gentry, Managing Partner
Sometimes when you look back you can be surprised at how far you’ve come. The energy industry have been having moments like this recently – as, according to data from GridCarbon, an app created by the University of Oxford, the share of renewably generated or zero-carbon electricity has consistently topped 60% over the past number of weeks.
The fact that renewables are playing such a significant role in Britain’s energy supply is, when you stop and think about it, remarkable. It seems like only a few years ago that we were arguing about even the viability of solar and wind playing a significant role. And yet at 12 noon today solar was again over 26%, the largest source of electricity generation, eclipsing gas at 25%. For the record nuclear was 17%, wind 10% and biomass 10%.
Wind averages between 10% and 20% of the energy the UK uses each day depending on the weather. Richard Burrett of Earth Capital who has been financing renewable energy since the mid-1990s points out that the new wind turbines are far more efficient and generate much more energy than the windmills installed just a few years ago. Following his logic suggests that as old windmills are replaced the role wind plays in energy supply will grow.
Despite the fact that our lives are dominated by more and more electrical devices from phones to cars, the amount of electricity the UK needs is actually declining year on year. In 2005 the UK used 357 terawatt hours. Fifteen years later that has fallen to 306 terawatt hours. Most of those who follow the energy sector closely believe that demand will continue to fall as devices become more efficient and most importantly as domestic usage monitors are rolled out – a scheme which has stalled but which Ministers are under increasing pressure to get right.
The fall in the price of wind and solar energy generation has led many, including government ministers, to suggest that the issue of the ‘energy trilemma’ is now over – green power is now in the process of becoming the cheapest source of power. Howard Johns, CEO of Bluefield Services and a renewable energy veteran, talks about the renewables dominating energy generation being the new normal and he’s right. Renewables now dominate UK energy supply and that is a trend that will only strengthen.