REA: UK energy transition “still faces significant challenges”
The report, which presents the latest deployment and employment figures for the renewable energy and clean technology industry, shows that while progress on renewable power remains positive, until supportive UK government policy measures are forthcoming for heat, transport and circular bioresources, it will continually be a challenge for the UK to meet its legally binding net zero commitments.
Renewables were responsible for 41.7% of UK power generation, a modest increase from the prior year, when renewables accounted for 39.6%.
The second largest source of renewable electricity continued to be from biomass, at 6.9%. This was down from 8.78% from the preceding year.
However, 2022 marked a significant fall in generation of 16%, at just over 22,000 GWh compared to more than 27,000 GWh in 2021.
This is a change from previous trends where biomass power generation levels had remained steady in 2020 following previous growth rates of 9.4% from 2018 to 2019 and 6.1% from 2019 to 2020.
This category includes animal waste-derived biomass, energy from waste and landfill gas and sewage sludge digestion.
In 2022, waste-to-energy accounted for almost 3% of total renewable power generation, at 9,445 total GWh.
This is a further slight decrease (1%) in generation from 2021 which also saw a decrease of 0.2% from 2020.
Overall waste- based generation grew nearly 5% by 2020, and it has decreased since then due to naturally declining landfill gas sources (being located at closed landfill sites therefore not receiving new feedstock) and a lack of new capacity in other parts of the sector.
Energy from waste by itself had another strong year, with generation growing again by just under 5%. It now contributes just over half of all waste- based generation, producing 4,775 GWh of the total 9,445 GWh.
Landfill gas is the next largest, generating 33% but decreasing over time, followed by sewage sludge digestion and animal biomass, at 10% and 6% respectively.
Power generation through anaerobic digestion grew significantly in 2021 with more than 3,250 GWh being produced, and this growth continued into 2022 with 3,317 GWh being produced, according to the report.
While 2022’s 2% growth is indeed positive and continues the general trend of high increases over recent years, it is nowhere near the almost 11% rise in Anaerobic Digestion power generation in 2021 – the largest increase since 2017.
2021’s increase was in part due to food waste volumes returning to pre-pandemic levels after lockdown throughout most of 2020, as well as biogas combustion projects which were delayed in 2020 eventually commissioning in 2021.
Anaerobic digestion makes up just over a 1% share of 2022’s total renewable power generation.
Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, chief executive of the REA, said: “The urgent need to unlock policy and investment blockages is clear throughout REview23, which shows that in 2022, only 14% of the UK’s total energy consumption came from renewable sources across heat, transport and power according Government statistics (DUKES, 2023).
“While we continued to see the dynamic resilience of the renewable energy and clean technology sector over 2022 through the energy crisis, as well as months of political and policy uncertainty, we are not immune to real-world economic forces. Indeed, at times it can feel as if we are wading through treacle when repeatedly being challenged to make the economic case for net zero.
“Even though it has been proven countless times that the energy transition is as much an economic opportunity as an environmental imperative, our sector still finds itself having to overcome naysayers time and time again.
“REview23 projects that thousands of new jobs and billions of pounds will be added by the sector by 2035, and these figures could be even greater should the Government deliver the right support. Of course, these numbers are by no means guaranteed if the Government continues to provide patchy and unreliable policy.
“We are clear, tackling climate change and boosting our economy is not an ‘either-or’ decision. In fact, it goes hand in hand. I would urge the Government to recognise the opportunities on offer for our country and finally match their warm words with action.”