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Investment in independent renewable energy soared in 2014

New figures show that independent, commercial-scale renewable energy received record levels of investment in 2014, highlighting the increasing attractiveness of onsite renewables to businesses.

New figures show that independent, commercial-scale renewable energy received record levels of investment in 2014, highlighting the increasing attractiveness of onsite renewables to businesses.

The Energy Entrepreneurs Report 2015, from renewable electricity supplier, SmartestEnergy, shows that £417 million was invested in independent renewable energy generation projects of 50kW or above in the UK last year.

There are now 4,460 commercial-scale renewable energy projects in operation outside of major power companies in the UK, a 57 per cent increase on 2013. 

In total, these projects account for more than a third of national renewable energy capacity and generate more than £1 billion worth of electricity each year. 

Solar PV, onshore wind and anaerobic digestion (AD) were the three fastest growing technologies in 2014.

Onsite generation

While the most active investors in 2014 were specialist renewable energy developers, the number of businesses in the manufacturing, retail and service sectors investing in their own onsite generation surged by 44 per cent. 

There are now 572 onsite generation projects over 50kW in capacity across the UK, generating over £100 million worth of electricity each year. 

The manufacturing and retail sectors were the most active investors in onsite renewables in 2014, followed by services, distribution and storage, and leisure. 

Solar surge

Across all industry sectors, solar PV was by far the most favoured technology for new onsite projects in 2014, reflecting the move towards rooftop installations and rapidly falling technology costs

The surge in solar installations also saw it overtake onshore wind as the technology with the biggest independent generation capacity in the UK.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) recently published a ‘confidence checklist’ to encourage businesses to invest in their own rooftop solar systems.

‘Accelerating expansion’

Robert Groves, chief executive of SmartestEnergy, said the report’s figures underlined the resilience of independent energy generation in the face of challenging government policies.

“Against a backdrop of major policy changes, political uncertainty and energy market volatility, the pace of expansion has accelerated”, he said.

“Almost £420 million was invested in commercial-scale independent generation projects during 2014, equivalent to more than £1.1 million every day. The 1,619 new projects coming on stream saw total capacity of the 4,460 sites now in operations rise to over 8.5GW.

“This is enough to meet the energy needs of the entire public sector in the UK, or power over 5.7 million households.”