Renewables generated 9.5% of UK electricity in 2011
Renewable energy generation expanded significantly and carbon emissions fell by 7% in 2011.

Renewable energy generation was responsible for 9.5% of all electricity supplied in the UK in 2011, failing to hit the magic 10% mark that had been predicted, according to the latest energy statistics from DECC.  But this is an increase of 35.1% on the previous year, when renewables accounted for 6.8% of all electricity.
The lion's share of this was from thermal renewables, i.e. biomass, landfill gas and waste-to-energy, which accounted for 13.27TWh, and onshore wind which accounted for 10.42TWh.  Renewable electricity capacity also rose, by 32.1% on the previous year to 12.2 GW at the end of 2011.

Latest figures (25 March) show that the UK's solar photovoltaic capacity for installations under the feed-in tariff is now 1.02 GW spread over a total of 298,762 installations.

Greenhouse gas emissions fall.

The UK's greenhouse gas emissions also fell by 7% last year, according to new figures released today.  This means that since 1990, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol, the U. K.'s carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 23%, while overall energy consumption has decreased by 5%.  The fall last year is mainly due to reduced use of gas in the domestic sector, where emissions fell by 22%, but also due to more nuclear coming back on stream after outages the previous year, and reduced energy overall consumption due to the recession.


Total consumption of fuel fell by 2.2% last year, with gas taking the largest hit with a fall of 8.9%. Consumption of coal and other solid fuels rose by 9.3%.  Emissions from the energy supply sector were estimated to be around 24% lower in 2011 than they were in 1990.  Commenting on the figures, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Edward Davey said: "This is more evidence of how the UK is leading the way in the fight against climate change. Carbon emissions are down, homes are more energy efficient and low carbon power is up. Thanks to the Green Deal and the Government's reforms to the electricity market I hope to see this trend continue and gather pace. "

Expansion continues

The improved renewable generation figures were helped by high rainfall in areas where hydroelectric generation takes place, and increased wind speeds. Hydro had a 58% increase on the previous year.  In fact, all renewable energy sources experienced expansion as the following table shows:

Renewable electricity source TWh % change on 2010
Onshore wind 10.42 + 45.9
Offshore wind 5.11 + 67.9
Hydro 5.69 + 58.0
Thermal renewables (inc. co-firing)13.27 + 11.4
All renewables 34.75 + 35.1
Primary electricity consumption from nuclear and non-thermal renewables rose by 16.3%.  Nuclear generation rose by 11.1% mainly because there were extensive outages the previous year.  This means that low carbon generation including renewables accounts for 28.4% of all electricity generation in 2011 compared to 23.3% the previous year.

Renewable transport fuel

In the area of renewable transport, in 2011, biofuels accounted for just 3.5% of all transport fuels, less than 2010.  The UK has a target of 5% under the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) and now has one year to reach that target.  Over one million litres (1,577)  of liquid biofuels were consumed in 2011, a fall of 5.9% on 2010's record annual high of 1,676 million litres,

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said that despite the figures the UK is on track to meet the target because suppliers are stockpiling certificates to surrender in the future, representing the difference between what is used and what is held in stock by them.  Under the RTFO, suppliers can either produce or buy biofuels, or pay into a buy-out fund or purchase certificates from another company. Certificates can account for no more than 25% of the biofuels they hold. One Renewable Transport Fuel Certificate (RTFC) is equivalent to one litre of biofuel or kg of biogas.  The official said that companies hold certificates over from one year to the next if it is profitable for them to do so. They are currently betting that they will get better prices in the coming year.  Transport is the hardest area to tackle in terms of reducing emissions. Its emissions are roughly unchanged from 1990 levels. Between 2010 and 2011, transport emissions decreased by 1.4%, and are now at their lowest since 1992, but they had been rising up until the recession began in 2007.  Since December 2011, the RTFO includes mandatory sustainability criteria, which included accounting for the carbon emissions of growing and transporting the fuels, and the impact on land use for food production.


Average industrial gas prices, including the CCL, were 15.9% higher in real terms in the last quarter of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, whilst prices excluding CCL were 16.1% higher.  Average industrial electricity prices were 3.5% higher including the CCL and 3.6% excluding it in the last quarter of 2011, compared to the corresponding quarter a year earlier.

Prices of all fuels, of course, rose last year, by an average of 9.5%, but within this electricity prices rose the least, by only 3.5%.  In fact it was heavy fuel oil which rose the most, by a staggering 19.1%, followed by gas prices which rose by 15.9%. Despite this, the price of unleaded petrol rose by only 4.6% and diesel by 5.1%.

UK industrial gas prices were the lowest in the EU15 for all types of consumer including and excluding tax.  During the second half of the year, industrial medium, large and extra large electricity consumers suffered prices higher than the median for the EU15 countries but small and domestic consumers had lower than average prices.  This means that the average domestic gas bill rose by £61 and the average electricity bill rose by £36 last year, the lowest and fourth lowest in the EU 15 respectively.
Source RRF; 5th April 2012

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