The generation of renewable electricity in the UK has increased by a fifth spurred on by dramatic increases in solar PV capacity, according to figures published in the Renewable Energy Association’s annual REview.
The report, authored in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Innovas, reveals that a total of 64,404Gwh of electricity was generated from renewable sources in 2014, compared to 53,667GWh in 2013.
The report also notes that the rise in electricity generation has matched an increase in jobs in the renewable sector, growing by 9% since 2013. The association said that regions such as the East Midlands, North West, London and Scotland had exhibited stronger than average job growth in the period too.
“2014 has been another strong year for investment in the renewable energy sector, bringing the total investment since 2010 to £40 billion,” said Ronan O’Regan, director, renewables and clean tech at PwC.
He continued: ”The majority of investment during 2014 was in renewable electricity generation, attracting almost £10 billion of capital, with solar the big winner, representing £4.5 billion of investment.”
John Sharp, director of Innovas, echoed O’Regan’s sentiments, adding: “Though the capacity of solar PV in particular saw a high level of increase, the decrease in equipment cost and higher efficiencies through large-scale deployment meant that the overall market value did not increase at the same rate as capacity.
“The forecast growth to 2020 with the current incentive and support schemes for the renewable energy sector as a whole is about 48% adding a further £7 billion to the market value with a total of £22 billion forecast. This would equate to a further 27,000 more people employed by 2020. This is far in excess of what is forecast for the economy as a whole.”
However, Sharp warned that the predicted level of growth for the sector would be “jeopardised” if government intervention in policy causes uncertainty in the market.
The REA is particularly concerned about the outcome of a number of imminent renewable decisions that will have to be made by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Most notably the feed-in tariff review and the possible extension of the renewable heat incentive.
Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA, explained: “We cannot be complacent. Our analysis shows that, where regulatory and financial support for renewable energy has been stable and sufficient, there has been considerable success, but where there has not, technologies have either stalled or gone backwards.”
The REA notes that the UK still needs a 16% growth rate to meet its EU obligation of generating 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 – one of the highest for any EU member state. Skorupska said: “In light of the growth rate for renewables needed for the UK to meet its 2020 targets, it is vital that the new government demonstrates the necessary leadership and ambition to enable our industry to thrive.”
O’Regan added: “Reaching the 2020 targets is estimated to require a further £50 billion of investment. The sector will be looking to the new Secretary of State to provide the investor certainty through to the end of the decade and beyond, both in terms of funding and technology preferences.”