Wind turbines at Chelveston, Northamptonshire. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Renewable energy made up almost half of Britain’s electricity generation in the first three months of the year, with a surge in wind power helping to set a new record for clean energy.
The government’s official data has revealed that renewable energy made up 47% of the UK’s electricity generation in the first three months of the year, smashing the previous quarterly record of 39% set last year.
The government’s renewable energy data includes electricity from the UK’s windfarms, solar panels and hydro power plants as well as bioenergy generated by burning wood chips instead of coal.
The “substantial increase” in the UK’s total renewable energy output was chiefly driven by a growth in electricity generated by solar panels and windfarms which climbed by more than a third over the last year, according to the government’s energy analysts.
The report added that the start up of new windfarms combined with the UK’s unusually wet and windy weather at the start of the year – particularly storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge – helped to generate record wind power generation.
Offshore windfarms powered the largest increase in renewable energy in the first quarter of the year, climbing by 53% compared with the previous year, while onshore wind generation grew by a fifth.
In total, wind power generated 30% of the UK’s electricity in the first quarter, beating the previous record of 22.3% set in the final months of 2019.
Rebecca Williams, of Renewable UK, said the renewable energy industry’s records were bound to be broken again in the years ahead as the government worked on “a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery”.
Britain last week set a new coal-free record of more than two months for the first time since coal-fired power generation began during the Industrial Revolution, following a surge in renewable energy due to bright, breezy weather and low demand during the Covid-19 lockdown.
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Williams said the government’s record quarterly data showed the clean energy transition “written very large indeed” because the records had been set at the coldest time of year “when we need it most”.
The rise of renewable energy combined with a steady supply of nuclear power, which made up about 15% of the UK generation mix, drove fossil fuel power plants to a new record low in the first quarter.
Gas-fired power plants made up less than a third of UK generation in the first quarter compared with over 40% in the first months of 2019, and coal-fired power made up 3.8% of electricity generated in the UK.