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Last updated: 12 March 2024

Top 30 UK Local Authorities by Renewable Energy Capacity

The UK’s climate sustainability CO₂ goal for 2050 is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% below what they were in 1990. Already, with the help of the various accords and preventative measures, progress has been made. As of 2016, the UK is halfway to reaching its goal of 42% CO₂ emission reduction below the 1990 levels.

Although the UK is on schedule with its plans to lower carbon emissions, forward momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

In January 2018, the UK government released the ‘Household Energy Efficiency National Statistics’, which GreenMatch has paired with the governmental report on ‘Renewable Electricity by Local Authority’ to rank the top 30 UK local authorities by renewable energy capacity. This information has also been put into an interactive map that visualised the findings.

The map shows the calculated average yearly energy capacity of the local authorities by researching different primary points. These are: the total number of renewable energy installations per local authority, the types of installation, and their estimated amount of energy capacity. With this done, it was easier to understand the UK trends in renewable energy, what installations have the biggest energy capacity, and the similarities and the differences between the top local authorities.

What Are the Main Trends in the Local Authority Energy Capacity?

Below you can scroll through the table presenting the top 10 local authorities and their estimated annual energy capacity.

RankLocal authorityEstimated megawatt capacity
# 1Calderdale4,468 MW
# 2Shropshire4,312 MW
# 3Herefordshire2,637
# 4Gwynedd1,905
# 5Strabane1,754 MW
# 6Argyll & Bute1,630 MW
# 7Dumfries & Galloway1,323 MW
# 8East Riding of Yorkshire1,346 MW
# 9Highland1,067 MW
# 10Aberdeenshire972 MW

Gathering all the information made it more easy to see trends and leading factors which contribute to the local authorities’ ranking. Firstly, the most popular types of renewable energy installations in the UK are photovoltaics (900,090 installations) and onshore wind turbines (9,243 installations). These are followed by hydro turbines (1,316 installations), anaerobic digestion sites (526 installations), landfill gas plants (450 installations) and plant biomass facilities (244 installations).

This is not surprising as solar panels are considered by many to be the most accessible and popular method of renewable energy generation. Indeed, the total number of solar panels in the UK vastly outnumbered all other types of energy installation combined (13,376 installations).

Secondly, although photovoltaics are the most used form of renewable energy, these installation types were not the ones that tipped the scales in the rankings. The installation types with the highest clean energy capacity are offshore wind turbines, hydro turbines, onshore wind turbines, and anaerobic plants, respectively.

Thirdly, a local authority’s population is an indicator - but not a prerequisite - of a good average energy capacity. For example, Orkney Islands has a population of just 20,100 people, however, due to its ideal geographic location, it has 760 onshore wind turbines, which averages a yearly total of 516 MW. Due to this, the local authority is number fifteen in the rankings.

Lastly, the local authorities have obtained their high renewable energy capacity through two different methods. One is by combining different types of renewable installations, and the other is by focusing on one type of energy and installing a large number of that type of units.

Methodology for Calculating Renewable Energy

In order to construct the rankings, several metrics were taken into consideration. These were: the population, the total number of installations, the types of renewable installations, and, finally, the total estimated local authority energy capacity. Below you can see a table in which these metrics for all the 30 local authorities are listed.

The map contains the top 30 local authorities in the UK with the highest energy capacity. The main criterion in the ranking is the estimated local authority energy capacity. The governmental paper from which the data was pulled contains 12 different types of renewable energy installations.

The energy capacity was calculated by defining one unit's energy capacity. This number was then multiplied with the total number of installations found in that local authority. This process was repeated for all the installations types and then these were added together to give the estimated total energy for all the renewable installations in that local authority.

This is how the yearly average energy capacity was calculated for the 12 renewable energy types:

Renewable energy typeDescriptionSource
PhotovoltaicsOne domestic sized photovoltaic provides approximatively 5kW (0.005 MW).Average solar panel energy capacity
Onshore windAn average size wind turbine has the yearly capacity of 6,000 MWh. Therefore, one unit's capacity is of 6,000/365/24 = 0,68 MWThe European Wind Energy Association
HydroThe MW capacity for each unit can vary greatly. Because of this the local authorities were consulted in order to find the exact figures for all the local authorities.Renewable First: Hydropower
Anaerobic digestionThe average capacity for anaerobic sites is 142.7 MW.The Green Investment Group
Offshore windThe average offshore wind turbine will produce an estimated 2 MW.National Wind Watch
Wave/TidalA scientific article listing the sites in the UK with wave/tidal plants and energy capacity was consulted.Science Direct
Sewage gasThe average yearly amount per facility is 1 MW.Office of Gas and Electricity Markets
Landfill gasThe typical energy capacity per plant is of 5.5 MW.Environment and Energy Study Institute
Municipal solid wasteThe capacity per plant can vary substantially. Different sources were used to define the specific figures for each of the local authorities.Science Direct
Animal biomassOn average a animal biomass plant has the electric capacity of 7.5 MW.Partner for Policy Institute
Plant biomassAs above, 7.5 MW.Partner for Policy Institute
Co-firingThe National Archives were consulted to find the specific figures for each local authority.The National Archives

As seen above, listings were consulted in several instances as there were too many variables to define an average number per unit. For example, in the case of hydro turbines, the energy produced can vary too substantially (from 0.005 MW to 5 MW) depending on the sizes and other factors. In these cases, the local authorities or other trustworthy sources were consulted to find the exact figures for the local authorities.

The interactive map revealed that the UK is continuing to increase its overall renewable energy capacity and the improvements are coming from different sectors. Solar panels are a popular choice among homeowners and, so, they have become a staple of urban spaces. At the same time, local authorities have started to more heavily invest in high capacity renewable installations. This is a necessary step as renewable household installations cannot single-handedly bring the change that is necessary.

Types of Energy (No. Units and MW)

In the interactive table below all the raw data used to make the interactive map is shown. The table contains the 30 local authorities, their populations and their estimated renewable energy capacities split between the number of installations and the MW capacity. The final column contains the total MW capacity for the local authorities.

The UK local authorities are continuing to increase their backing for renewable energy and to work at becoming the best in the country. If the UK continues on this path, it will most surely reach its 2050 goal of having 80% below its 1990 CO₂ emission. Now it is in our hands to see the change happen.

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