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Growing share of electricity supply for independent generators

New research shows that independent, commercial-scale renewable energy projects supplied 7.6 per cent of the UK’s electricity in 2015, generating substantial income for businesses.

New research shows that independent, commercial-scale renewable energy projects supplied 7.6 per cent of the UK’s electricity in 2015, generating substantial income for businesses.

The report from renewable electricity supplier, SmartestEnergy, shows that independent energy projects such as rooftop solar PV are gradually increasing their share in the UK’s electricity mix at the expense of traditional energy suppliers.

New capacity

According to SmartestEnergy, more than 1,000 commercial-scale renewable energy projects with a capacity of 50kW or more were installed in 2015.

There are now nearly 5,500 such installations outside of the traditional electricity supply sector, generating more than £1 billion worth of electricity a year.

Independent electricity capacity has more than doubled since 2012 to 11GW and now accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the UK’s renewable energy capacity.

In particular, solar PV capacity boomed by 83 per cent in 2015 as businesses rushed to complete installations before government subsidies for large projects ended and Feed in Tariff (FIT) levels for smaller projects were cut

Active investors

Among the most active investors in independent energy generation are businesses and corporates, farmers and landowners, waste disposal operators and community energy organisations.

Businesses with on-site commercial-scale renewable energy projects collectively generated £100 million worth of electricity in 2015.  

‘Remarkable achievement’

Robert Groves, chief executive of SmartestEnergy, said: “Independent generators have invested nearly £2.5 billion in renewables in the four years since we started tracking the growth of the sector.

“This clean electricity is all generated in the UK, reducing the need to import oil and gas, and providing income to the businesses, farmers and communities behind these projects. It’s a remarkable achievement.”

Future prospects

However, with government subsidies for renewable energy now significantly lower for future projects and wholesale electricity prices having dropped by 20 per cent in 2015, the sector is likely to experience less growth going forward.

Nevertheless, the business case for medium to large on-site generation projects remains strong as a means of protecting against future price rises and boosting energy security. 

The research suggests that innovation is also set to be a key factor for the future, with emerging on-site battery storage technologies likely to play a stronger role as technology costs drop.