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UK green power hits record high of 15 per cent in 2013

More than 900 new wind turbines were built at land and sea over the course of the year, helping the amount of green power generated to increase by almost one third

The biggest increase in green power came from more wind farms being built. Wind power produced 9 per cent of UK electricity, up from 6 per cent in 2012, the Government said. Photo: ALAMY

Published on The Telegraph website on 31st July 2014

Emily Gosden
By Emily Gosden, Energy Editor

Britain used record levels of green energy last year, as more than 900 new wind turbines were built at land and sea and the annual bill for subsidies reached an estimated £3bn.

The UK generated almost 15 per cent of its power from renewable sources in 2013, an increase of almost one third from 11.3 per cent in 2012, according to Government statistics released on Thursday.

But despite expensive efforts to go green, the UK still relied most heavily on burning coal – one of the dirtiest form of power plants.

More than a third of electricity came from coal-fired power plants, according to the statistics, while two-fifths of the coal imported to the UK came from Russia.

Gas-fired power stations generated 27 per cent of Britain’s electricity while nuclear reactors provided 20 per cent of the mix.

The biggest increase in green power came from more wind farms being built. Wind power produced 9 per cent of UK electricity, up from 6 per cent in 2012, the Government said.

Renewable UK, the wind industry body, said that more than 900 onshore wind turbines were installed over the course of the year.

Power from onshore wind farms increased by 40 per cent as 646 new onshore wind turbines were installed at 139 different sites.

The amount of power generated by offshore wind farms increased by 52 per cent, as 279 turbines were installed at sea, at four offshore wind farm sites.

Ed Davey, the energy secretary, said the figures showed that “the Government’s investment in renewable energy is paying off”.

“This massive investment in green energy is accelerating, with 2013 a record year, with almost £8 billion invested across range of renewable technologies,” he said. “Having a strong UK renewable sector helps to reduce our foreign imports of energy, improving our energy security, as well as helping us tackle climate change and creating new hi-tech green jobs.”

Energy companies complain that the Government drive for wind farms mean some gas plants are left barely running and are having to be mothballed as Britain chooses to buy heavily-subsidised wind power instead, pushing up household electricity bills.

Coal, gas and nuclear plants all receive the market price of power for the electricity they generate. By contrast onshore wind farms receive roughly twice that amount for any energy they generate, and offshore wind farms get roughly treble the market price. The difference is subsidised by consumers through levies on their energy bills.

Official statistics estimate that subsidies for green electricity cost consumers £37 on a typical annual energy bil in 2013. That is forecast to increase to £85 by 2020.

Separate government statistics show that British consumers paid more than £2.5bn in subsidies to renewable electricity projects in the year to March 2013. £2bn of that was to large-scale projects such as wind farms and solar farms, while the remainder was on small-scale installations such as solar panels on household roofs.

The Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity critical of the costs of renewable energy subsidies, said in May that it estimated annual subsidies were now running at in excess of £3bn per year.

Of that, it estimates £765m goes to onshore wind farms, £935m to offshore wind farms, £800m to biomass plants, £500m to solar plants and £100m to hydroelectric power.

Ministers have argued that the crisis in Russia shows the need to develop more homegrown energy sources rather than relying on imported gas. Net imports accounted for half of UK gas demand in 2013.

The majority of gas imports – 58 per cent – came from Norway, while 16 per cent came from the Netherlands and 7 per cent from Belgium. The remaining 20 per cent of imported gas was shipped in, overwhelmingly from Qatar.

Dr Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s director of policy, said: “This abundance of excellent statistics should make those in Government who have failed to support wind energy sit up and take notice. More than half of Britain’s clean electricity now comes from onshore and offshore wind. We’re now on course to hit 10 per cent of electricity from wind alone this year.”

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