The energy system that drives the UK economy is changing fast. The early steps towards decarbonisation that the energy sector took a decade ago in response the Climate Change Act have become confident strides and real progress can be seen in the recent confirmation that low-carbon generation outstripped all other sources of power for the first time in 2017.
The latest Digest of UK Energy Statistics shows that just over half (50.1%) of Britain’s total energy requirements were met last year by low-carbon power sources, up from 45.6% in 2016. Within that statistic is the fact that renewable energy accounted for 29.3% of that low-carbon generation (up from 24.3% in 2016), and the contribution from nuclear sources dipped 2%.
SSE takes those numbers as confirmation that our commitment to embracing the low-carbon agenda through renewable energy is bearing fruit, and it gives us the confidence to build on our success as a major developer, owner and operator of renewables. Onshore and offshore wind generation have pivotal roles to play in meeting long-term energy requirements in the UK and Ireland and SSE has the skills and scale to deliver both, for the benefit of both countries.
A newly-published report, ‘A decade of clean growth: SSE’s contribution to the onshore wind revolution’, details the expansion SSE’s onshore wind portfolio has seen over the past decade and the resulting £3.9bn of value added to the UK and Irish economies. That growth has seen onshore wind capacity triple to over 1,900MW, with committed spend of £6.1bn creating jobs, boosting the British and Irish economies and contributing huge amounts of electricity to meet the needs of customers. Delivering clean growth, doing our bit for the economy and contributing to national industrial strategies is not without its challenges. The onshore wind industry offers one of the lowest-cost sources of energy but to continue creating benefits it needs a supportive regulatory framework.
Offshore wind also has a role to play in delivering the UK and Ireland’s – and SSE’s – decarbonisation ambitions. SSE has a 40% stake in the Beatrice wind farm project which exported first energy from the Moray Firth earlier this month and has a stake in three other major projects under development in the waters around the UK and Ireland – Seagreen (50%), Dogger Bank (50%) and Arklow Bank. Recent government announcements committing to biennial auctions in this technology are very welcome and SSE is ready to play its part in the doubling of UK offshore capacity over the next decade.
In Ireland, a Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS 1) could support over 350MW of onshore wind capacity between now and 2020, and a second scheme, (RESS 2), might create offshore development opportunities. While this represents more of a framework than firm policy for developers like SSE, we nevertheless welcome the emergence of some clarity and will continue to engage with the Irish Government on the details.
The Digest of UK Energy Statistics may sound dull, but the recent numbers represent a milestone on the road to decarbonisation. It is against this backdrop that SSE continues to explore future development options for renewable energy, consistent with our ambition to be a leading energy provider in a low-carbon world.
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