Dreaming of a green Christmas

25 December 2016 was something of a landmark for UK electricity.  As turkeys roasted and the Queen transmitted her seasonal message, British homes were powered up by more renewable energy than ever before.[1]  Though demand is relatively low on Christmas Day, with most businesses shut, it is still quite impressive that fully 42% was supplied by green sources.

Wind was the chief protagonist, accounting for 75% of electricity consumed and 30% of electricity generated on 25 December, with contributions from solar, hydro and biomass.  The preceding week also broke a record with 28% of electricity generated in the UK coming from renewable sources and 20% from wind.

So the clean energy sector is feeling chuffed as 2017 begins and RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive, Maf Smith, speaks for many when he says:

“Renewables are now a mainstream provider of electricity, delivering low cost, reliable power to consumers not just at Christmas but the whole year round.”

There are abundant studies to bolster his claim.  According to one, by Moore Stephens, the accountancy firm, there were 16 insolvencies in the oil and gas sector in 2016, compared with two in 2015.[2]  As renewable energy becomes increasingly competitive on cost, it looks likely to suppress rises in the price of crude oil.  Moore Stephens’ head of restructuring and insolvency, Jeremy Willmont, comments:

“The collapse of the price of oil has stretched many UK independents to breaking point”

Elsewhere in the world, the studies and statistics are published with relentless speed and optimism: “around” 98.1% of Costa Rica’s electricity came from renewable sources in 2016 [3], up to half a million people could be employed by the renewable energy sector in Morocco by 2040 [4] and the Canadian Arctic is capable not just of harnessing wind and solar power but of doing so cost effectively, according to a new study by the World Wildlife Fund [5].

No matter how hard the incoming US government fights to protect the fossil fuel sector, market forces appear to be heading elsewhere in 2017.