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U.K. Shows Renewable Energy Possible Even in Tough Economic Times

Despite political infighting and a flagging economy, electricity generated from renewable energies in the U.K. met almost one-fifth of the nation’s electrical needs during the first three months of this year, an increase of 43 per cent compared to the same period in 2013.

U.K. energy statistics compiled by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and published Thursday show that the share of electricity generation (hydro, wind and other renewables) increased from 12.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 to 19.4 per cent in the same quarter of 2014.

The statistics show that wind power generation was up 58 per cent, due to increased wind generation capacity as well as large increases in wind speeds.

They also revealed that coal accounted for 37 per cent of electrical generation, natural gas made up 23 per cent and nuclear power produced 18 per cent of total U.K. electricity generated in January, February and March.

RenewableUK, which represents wind power and marine energy in Britain, noted in a media release that the total renewable electricity generation was a record 18.1 terawatt hours in the first three months of this year, enough to power more than 15 million homes for the quarter. Coal, gas and nuclear production all fell in the same period.

“Once again, wind delivered strongly for the U.K. in the first quarter of the year — when we need power most — providing nearly 12 per cent of all our electricity,” RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber said in the media release.

“At a time when some politicians were finalizing their plans to rule out any future support for onshore wind, it was quietly generating enough electricity for the equivalent of over five and a half million homes. Offshore wind also made a significant contribution to getting us off the hook of fossil fuels and reducing our dependence on imported energy.”

The U.K. statistics were released a day after a Bloomberg news report quoted former Mexico president Felipe Calderon saying that fighting climate change can be profitable but there must be business incentives for low-carbon growth to reduce fossil-fuel reliance.

Calderon said nations must act jointly to target the energy industry, cities, agriculture and forests as the main areas where runaway greenhouse gas emissions can be reined in, the report said.

“It’s completely possible to both get economic growth and to tackle climate change,” said Calderon, now chairman of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. “The traditional trade-off that a lot of people talk about between growth and responsibility to the environment is a false dilemma.”

Meanwhile, a different Bloomberg story noted Thursday that the European Commission is considering proposing a 2030 energy-savings target of 27 per cent to 30 per cent.

Noting that the energy-savings plan would become the third pillar of the EU’s energy and climate strategy for the next decade, the story said “the commission in January proposed that the 28-nation bloc adopt a binding goal to cut greenhouse gasses by 40 per cent by 2030, accelerating the pace of emissions reduction from 20 per cent in 2020 compared with 1990 levels. It also recommended an EU-wide target to boost the share of renewables in energy consumption to 27 per cent.”

By way of comparison, Canada and the U.S. committed under the Copenhagen Accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Image Credit: Nick Cross via Flickr

Chris Rose is a journalist and communications consultant. Born in Vancouver, his interests include politics, history, demographics, the economy, the…

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