UK renewable energy capacity will equal conventional generation capacity by 2025

Renewable generation will match thermal generation capacity by 2025

by James Martin II on September 26, 2012

In an optimistic forecast for the UK’s renewables sector, a report by alternative energy analysts at GlobalData have predicted renewable energy capacity in the UK will pull alongside conventional, ‘thermal’ generation capacity such as coal and gas by the year 2025, thank primarily to strong government support.

The renewables industry is already seeing faster growth than thermal sources in the UK power generation sector, the report says, and in the coming years new uptake will soar above the 11 gigawatts (GW) installed in the year 2011. By 2025, renewable generation will account for 79GW of capacity, with conventional plant capacity sitting at around 81GW–leaving a gap of only 2GW.

Leading the growth will be the wind power sector, with total wind capacity in 2025 projected to be around 53GW (up from 6GW in 2011), followed by solar PV at over 13GW (up from 1GW in 2011). While such figures would have been unthinkable just 5 years or a decade ago, the fact that energy from solar PV is expected to be cost-competitive with coal and nuclear by 2020 by none other than the International Energy Agency (IEA) is a good indication of the massive shift is underway in the way that the world produces its electricity.

In addition to government support (including Feed-in Tariffs for rooftop solar and commercial solar power and solar farms), a number of other factors in the UK energy sector are increasingly pushing power production economics in favour of renewables. These include the fact that retail electricity prices are already high and rising, the high-priority nature of energy security in a nation with natural resource constraints, the country’s ageing nuclear plants and their impending decommissioning, and restrictions put on shale gas resource exploitation due for ecological and social reasons.

Although projections this broad and general in nature will inevitably differ from reality to some degree, GlobalData’s report corroborates the growing wave of evidence-backed sentiment that renewables will play a major role in the future electricity generation mix of most nations, and that renewable energy targets such as the UK’s 15% by 2020 are eminently achievable. Indeed, increased uptake of renewable generators results in economies of scale in a ‘victorious circle’ that benefits each technology as it becomes more commonplace. This is one of the reasons that the cost of solar PV has dropped so significantly in recent years.

© 2012 Solar Selections Ltd

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