Eight things you need to know about renewables ahead of the Budget

1. Renewables are a UK success story. They have rapidly increased as a proportion of UK electricity supply since 2010.1_crop

2. Investment in renewable electricity has been growing, with the offshore wind sector alone attracting an estimated £9.5 billion between 2010 and 2014.2_crop

3. Renewables are a source of jobs. There are now more than 77,000 direct jobs in the industry, with many in former industrial areas.3_crop

4. The costs are coming down: many technologies could be cheaper than gas by the mid 2020s, given the right policy framework. Graph shows cost per MWh (unit of electricity generated).4_crop

“Wind is now the cheapest technology in the UK and this means that old rules of thumb, such as ‘renewables are expensive’ or ‘unreliable’ need to be updated.” Seb Henbest, head of Europe for BNEF

5. Opinion polls show a steady, high level of public support for renewables. Support has remained above 75 per cent, despite extensive negative media coverage.5_crop

6. The climate for investment in all forms of power generation is uncertain.

“To unlock investment, we need a clear long term framework – so companies can plan for construction projects that will last into the next decade.” Open letter from Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, co-signed by 18 major companies, January 2016

7. It’s forecast that UK investment in renewable electricity will fall. By September 2015, 23 large scale projects, representing around 2.7 GW of energy, had been abandoned.6_crop

8. The 2016 Budget needs to confirm support for renewables into the next decade:


  • Renewables boost energy security because they are quick to deploy, have a proven track delivery record, and do not rely on fossil fuel imports.
  • They can leverage billions of pounds worth of investment in cleantech and vital infrastructure. Danish developer DONG announced in January 2016 it would spend an additional £6 billion in the UK by 2020, following the government’s commitment to 10GW of new offshore wind in the 2020s.
  • A broader technology mix and steady deployment will bring costs down and improve competition.


  • Determine the level of support available beyond 2020, and set expectations for private sector investment during this parliament.
  • Provide £2.7 billion extra investment to upgrade and decarbonise the UK’s electricity system. Of this, the subsidy for low carbon generation compared to new gas plants would be only £0.53 billion, falling to £0.23 billion by 2025. (See Green Alliance report, Beyond subsidy)
  • Continue to support more expensive renewables so they can become subsidy free, but protect consumers by setting fair cost reduction expectations.
  • Give the most competitive renewables (onshore wind and large scale solar) subsidy free contracts, so they can be built where communities support them.

This information comes from Renewables investment: building on UK strengths at the 2016 Budget, published by Green Alliance


About Amy Mount

Amy is senior policy adviser in the low carbon energy theme. She joined Green Alliance in June 2014. Follow her on Twitter @ASmallAMount
This entry was posted in Low carbon energy, Policy, Political Leadership and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Eight things you need to know about renewables ahead of the Budget

  1. Useful, thanks. Do you have info on how the 23.5% of electricity in 2015 breaks down between different renewable technologies?

  2. Thanks. I think we need now to move beyond supporting “renewables” in general and be more specific. Different types of renewables have different strengths and weaknesses. Wind and solar excellent for climate. Hydro good for climate but less good for landscape and biodiversity, and not being expanded much in UK anyway. Bioenergy complicated: with direct and indirect land use change and transport of biomass it may be no better for climate than fossil fuels are. Dutch have sustainable biomass criteria – don’t know of others.

    • Dominic McCann says:

      Yes I mostly agree with that comment. Renewables are not all necessarily equal. Hydro can be slightly expanded in the UK – at least I think there is reasonable scope to increase micro-hydro albeit still making a fairly small overall contribution. Bioenergy is more complex, it might be good (if such data was available) to make a distinction between co-firing in coal fired plants of imported timber products and bio-methane / local biomass.

  3. bobinchiclana says:

    We need to encourage the potential of tidal power. Although this has a heavy upfront cost, it has a much longer life span than any other form of renewable energy. In addition it is very predictable and can have many other environmental and utility benefits.

  4. Completely agree. (I’m a consultant to Tidal Lagoon Power.) As well as climate and energy advantages, this would be good UK industrial policy. The company has made a film about supply chain benefits. http://www.tidallagoonswanseabay.com/news/preparing-a-new-global-industry-in-the-uk/bp145/

  5. Emeritus Professor John Page says:

    We need to think much more deeply about energy storage for renewable energy systems. Climate is a dynamic resource with huge temporal variability. Firm energy supplies are critical At the moment we run away from the energy storage challenge so forcing a belief that unaffordable nuclear energy is essential to fill the holes in renewable energy supplies. We should ponder on how biological systems solve the problem of the storage of intermittent solar energy supplies using chemical systems for energy storage over seasons. rather than energy storage over hours

  6. Pingback: How a greener economy can help fix Europe’s labour market problems | green alliance blog

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