Renewable energy capacity in the UK has overtaken fossil fuels for the first time, which is being hailed as a ‘major milestone’ for the energy industry. This news comes despite fears that a no-deal Brexit could harm and de-stabilise the power industry.
The UK’s sustainable energy capacity has grown from 19.5GW in 2013 to the current 41.9GW, while fossil fuels’ capacity has dropped by one-third. The decrease in fossil fuels is partly due to power plants becoming uneconomic or reaching the end of their lifespans. For example, there are now only six active coal-fired power plants left in the UK, after it was reported that Northern Ireland’s Killroot plant was set to close in May 2018 (although this has not happened as of yet) and in September this year the Eggborough coal plant in Yorkshire began the process of decommission and demolition. The planned closures have led to a reduction in coal capacity by 25%.
Imperial researcher and lecturer in sustainable energy Dr Ian Staffell wrote in a Drax news report: “Britain’s power system is slowly but surely walking away from fossil fuels, and this quarter saw a major milestone on the journey.”
However, Energy UK, the industry’s trade association, reiterated comments made by a House of Lords committee earlier this year, warning that unpredictability in the sector once the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, will lead to higher energy bills for domestic and business customers alike. This is especially expected if the process is not managed well, as currently, the UK heavily relies on energy imported from Europe.
Together with the 585-page draft withdrawal agreement released last week, the UK government and the European Commission have published a shorter document setting out the Britain’s future relationship with the EU, including points relating to the energy sector. Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said one of the organisation’s priorities is to maintain a strong voice in Europe.
She said: “We welcome the further detail provided to industry through the draft withdrawal agreement. This is an extensive legal document which we will now analyse and review in full with our membership. Our focus remains on securing the best outcome for the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry. That is, protecting the offshore industry from future EU regulatory changes, minimal friction between the UK and EU, maintaining a strong voice in Europe, protecting energy trading and the internal energy market and protecting our licence to operate. We will continue to put forward these priorities in our discussions with the Government in the coming days.”