Renewable energy in the UK had a difficult year in 2015. Government support was slashed for established technologies such as onshore wind and solar, and became uncertain for newer forms, like biomass burning in place of coal.
But despite the tricky conditions, production of power from renewables hit a record high, according to government statistics (pdf) released this week. In 2015, renewables’ share of electricity generation rose to 24.7%, from 19.1% the previous year. (The remaining 75% is a mixture of fossil fuel and nuclear generation.)
Denmark has managed to produce much higher percentages of its electricity from renewables, but for a smaller population. Germany, which has invested huge resources into building renewable generation capacity, has at times produced up to 78% of its electricity from renewables.
It should be noted that the amount of electricity produced and the average actually consumed can be very different when it comes to highly variable renewables. In 2014, Germany’s share of renewables in gross energy consumption was 28.2%, according to Eurostat. In the UK, 17.3% of energy consumption was from renewables that year.
The majority of the UK’s renewable power came from wind, both onshore and offshore, followed by bioenergy, solar, and hydropower.
The hike in renewables has seen a parallel fall in coal use. Coal is now being burned at the lowest level for 150 years, in a country that has retired many of its old coal plants, and converted others to burn wood. By the 4th quarter of 2015, coal produced just 19.9% of the UK’s electricity—behind gas at 29.7%, and behind renewables for the first time.