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Wind Energy in United Kingdom

2020 wind energy numbers

High winds in spring 2020 combined with low energy demand due to COVID-19 allowed renewable energy to outpace annual fossil fuel generation for the first time. Electricity demand was at its lowest level in over a decade with 281 TWh final consumption, a 4.7% decrease from 2019. Industrial and non-domestic consumption dropped by 10% in contrast to domestic use which increased by 4%. Wind energy provided over 56% of the total annual electricity generation from renewables (26% onshore and 30% offshore).

The UK maintained its dominant position in offshore wind with installations growing 412 MW to 10.4 GW in 2020. Onshore wind capacity only increased by 157 MW, but this is set to accelerate with onshore wind projects allowed to compete in the same pot as solar energy in upcoming auctions.

The UK Government announced a ten-point green recovery plan in 2020 which included a rise in the offshore wind target to 40 GW by 2030 and strategic investment to upgrade ports and manufacturing sites

To learn more about wind energy in the UK, please review their chapter in the IEA Wind TCP 2020 Annual Report.

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Megawatt

Total wind power capacity is 24,300 MW.
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Megawatt

Wind power capacity in the UK increased by 570 MW in 2020.
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Terawatt-time

UK produces 75.6 TWh from wind energy, which accounts for 22.8% of the country’s electricity consumption.

National Targets

In November 2020, the Government announced plans to Build Back Greener after COVID19 through its ten-point plan, announcing £5 billion to support a green recovery and planning to mobilise £12 billion plus private investment to support 250,000 jobs by 2030. Regarding offshore wind, the plan increased ambition for capacity from 30 GW to 40 GW by 2030, including at least 1 GW of floating wind. Approximately £160 million will be invested to upgrade ports and manufacturing infrastructure to be able to service this level of expansion. Advancing offshore wind could deliver support for up to 60,000 jobs in 2030, around £20 billion of private investment by 2030 and savings of 21 MtCO2e between 2023 and 2032, or 5% of 2018 UK emissions.

One month later in December 2020, most of these plans were included in a long-anticipated Energy White Paper highlighting the importance of carbon emission reduction and creation of jobs. This is intended to mark the start of a Green Industrial Revolution moving away from a fossil fuel-reliant system and embracing cleaner energy options.

Progress & Operational Details

Renewable energy generation grew 11% in 2020, and exceeded fossil-fueled generation for the first time. In total, renewable capacity grew by just 2.0% during 2020, the lowest growth rate since 2010, however offshore wind generation played a large part to this output as it increased by 26% in one year due to the high wind conditions. Offshore wind supplied 41 TWh of electricity and onshore 35  TWh. New onshore wind installations were low with just 157 MW added in 2020 reaching 14.3 GW in total. Load factors for offshore wind was 45% and for onshore wind 28%.

Installed capacity of offshore wind increased by 412 MW, with construction facing delays due to COVID19 restrictions. The average rating of new turbines installed was 7 MW in 2020. Dogger Bank windfarm became the first windfarm in the world which will install the upgraded 13 MW GE Haliade-X wind turbines. The constant scaling up of wind turbine size led Vestas develop a 14/15 MW turbine model to upgrade its turbine size offering as GE and Siemens Gamesa both boost their wind turbine models to reach 14 MW and 15 MW ratings.

National RDD Priorities and Budget

R&D funding launched in 2020:

  • Strength in Places Fund (UKRI) - Research funding to drive economic growth in specific UK areas.
  • Low Carbon Challenge Fund (Scottish Enterprise/ERDF) - Enabling SMEs to unlock the opportunities of the climate emergency and contribute toward achieving Scotland’s net-zero target.
  • Bilateral UK and US Offshore Wind R&D Programme (Innovate UK) - Enabling UK companies to partner with US consortia as part of the US National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium programme.
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