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'Record' renewables energy levels
1:55pm Thursday 26th June 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Almost a fifth of the UK's electricity was generated by renewables in the first three months of this year, official figures show.
Increases in the number of offshore and onshore wind turbines, along with high winds, boosted wind power, while a doubling of average rainfall on the previous year in areas that have hydropower saw electricity from the technology hit record levels.
The increase in renewables, coupled with a fall in the amount of electricity generated overall in the first quarter of 2014, led to wind, hydro, solar, wave, tidal and biomass power plants generating a record 19.4% of the UK's electricity during the period.
It was an increase of seven percentage points on the same quarter in 2013, when 12.4% of electricity came from renewables.
Low-carbon generation, which also includes nuclear power, made up almost two-fifths of the electricity mix (37.1%) in the first three months of 2014.
Coal, gas and nuclear power generation all fell compared to the same period in 2013.
The figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) also showed that 5.2% of all the UK's energy, including heating and transport, came from renewables in 2013, an increase from 4.2% in 2012.
The UK has a legally binding target to source 15% of all its energy from renewables by 2020, as part of the European Union's drive to generate 20% of energy from renewables by the end of this decade.
Industry body RenewableUK's director of external affairs Jennifer Webber said: "Once again, wind delivered strongly for the UK in the first quarter of the year - when we need power most - providing nearly 12% of all our electricity.
"At a time when some politicians were finalising their plans to rule out any future support for onshore wind, it was quietly generating enough electricity for the equivalent of over five-and-a-half million homes.
"Offshore wind also made a significant contribution to getting us off the hook of fossil fuels and reducing our dependence on imported energy."
She added: " Onshore wind is delivering today, and it's deeply illogical to talk about limiting its potential.
"Without the strong performance of wind last year, the Government would have been even further behind its energy targets.
"That's why we need to ensure that there's continued investment in both onshore and offshore wind moving forward."
The latest official figures also prompted calls for national targets for European countries for generating energy from renewables for 2030, which the UK Government has argued against.
Making the call ahead of an EU summit at which leaders are expected to discuss the 2030 energy and climate package, Renewable Energy Association chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: "Renewables and energy efficiency are the best no-regrets options for both reducing exposure to international energy market shocks and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"They should be at the heart of the EU strategies to address both energy security and climate change.
"The most cost-effective way to do this that gives investors most certainty is with nationally binding 2030 targets."
She welcomed the increase in energy from renewables in 2013, saying: " Every percentage point increase in home-grown renewable energy makes us that much more energy secure.
"The progress in electricity is encouraging, but growth is not yet strong enough in renewable heat and transport to meet the Government's objectives," she warned.
A Decc spokeswoman said: "The statistics published today show the UK is making very good progress to meeting its renewable targets in 2020.
"Renewables made up 5.2% of overall energy consumption in 2013, an increase of 24% from 2012.
"This puts us firmly on course to meet our next interim target for 2013 and 2014 - 5.41%."