Renewables provide record 47% of UK generation in Q1

In Q1 of 2020, renewable energy generated more electricity than fossil fuels, smashing a number of records along the way.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has this week released its quarterly data for the first four months of the year, which shows that solar, together with wind, hydro and other renewables, generated 47% of the country’s electricity during the period.

Solar generation fell minorly during the period, as despite increases in capacity, a decrease in average daily sun in the period offset this. The lack of sun in the first three months of 2020 compared with 2019 was partially due to a number of storms that hit the UK during February. This helped wind power to soar however, generating 30% of the UK's power during the period.

Collectively, renewable generation came in at a record 40.8TWh in Q1, a jump of 30% from the 31.5TWh recorded during the same period last year. And overall, low carbon generation – renewables and nuclear – provided 62.1%.

Generation from fossil fuels also hit a record low, at just 35.4% of electricity in the UK. Coal generation fell by 26% compared to the previous year, a trend that has continued into Q2. Soaring solar and low demand due to the lockdown helped to keep coal off the grid for over two months between April and June.

“At the coldest time of year, wind and renewables rewrote the record books right across the board, keeping our nation powered up when we need it most. This is the clean energy transition written very large indeed,” hailed RenewableUK’s head of policy and regulation Rebecca Williams.

“As the government works with us on a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery after the pandemic, you can be sure that the latest records, extraordinary though they are, will be broken again in the years ahead, as we phase out fossil fuels to reach net zero emissions”.

While solar – unsurprisingly – did not have as strong a Q1 as wind power, over the past few months there have been a host of records set by the technology that highlight its importance in the UK. This includes solar smashing peak generation with 9.68GW recorded in April.

BEIS’s statistics follow on from those of Drax Electric Insights and EnAppSys, which found that renewables overtook fossil fuels in Britain in Q1.