Introduction for New Users
1. The Data Provided
The version that is currently online was first published in October 2014. It is the latest iteration of a long-running project to provide accurate and accessible information about the capacities and performance of the United Kingdom's fleet of renewable electricity generators, giving capacity (MW), monthly performance figures (MWh), 2002 to the present, for individual generators where possible, and allowing the user to view this dataset in various ways.
The 2014 version not only offers new charting options, but is much more powerful, inclusive, and less in arrears than previous versions, because it uses three different sources of data: a) Renewables Obligation subsidy certificates (ROCs); b) Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origins (REGOs); and c) Climate Change Levy Exemption Certificates (LECs). This means that we can see output for subsidised and unsubsidised generators, and obtain information for sites from one source when another is, for one reason and another, unavailable. The data system uses ROCs where possible, then REGOs, and then LECs. In practice the majority of generators are covered by the ROCs, with the remainder covered by REGOS, with, at present, only a minority (a subset of municipal waste generation) covered by LECs.
Output from small generators that are supported under the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) and do not claim REGOs is estimated from the installed capacity provided in the FiT Register, with the technology load factor being derived from generators for which we do have data.
Users should note that the data for the latest calendar year is incomplete and subject to change. The RO data year runs from April to March and is also subject to change up until the following 1st of November which is the legislative deadline for the calculation and distribution of the buy-out fund.
The interface provided is very powerful, and can answer a large variety of questions about renewable electricity generation in the United Kingdom. The following guide is intended as a quick tour to enable a new user to get far enough up the learning curve to be able to explore confidently on their own.
2. Viewing Options for the Data
Users can view the data in many different ways:
a. By Individual Generator, where data is available (10,000 sites), and usually at a monthly resolution.
b. Grouped by the following categories, or combinations of categories
UK Country: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland
Technology Group: Biomass, Wind, Solar, Hydro, Marine
Technology Sub-Group: On-shore wind, Landfill Gas, Hydro, Off-shore wind, Dedicated biomass,
Biomass co-firing, Biodegradable, Photovoltaic, Sewage Gas, Anaerobic Digestion, Unknown Biomass, Waste, Advanced Gasification, Tidal Stream, Wave Power, Enhanced Wave
Subsidy: Renewables Obligation, Feed-in Tariff, Unsubsidised
By clicking on the chart button adjacent to the data the user can generate a simple chart.
By clicking on the + buttons the user can drill down beneath the grouped totals to reveal subsets of the data. These can also be charted by clicking on the relevant chart button. With a little practice the user will find that many combinations of the categories can be obtained and charted. For example, suppose the user wanted to find the output of each technology group in Scotland in 2008, they would go to Grouped by Year, then choose the Country option, and then expand the Technology Group for Scotland, as can be seen in this screenshot:
If the user then clicks on Chart image the system will generate the following chart image:
3. The First Page
In most cases the first page of the new REF database that you will see is that displaying the Grouped Totals by Year.
The coloured chart icon, which is used throughout the database, tells you that you can generate a chart of the data you can see, and in this case it will generate two bar charts, one showing the total capacity in MW of renewable electricity generators in each year, and the other showing the energy output of those generators in GWh:
Returning to the Grouped Totals by Year, the user will see that each year has a number of + buttons next to it. By hovering over the buttons the content of those subsections is indicated, such as Country, Tech Group, or Subsidy. Clicking on any of these buttons will expand that sub-group for that year. For example, this shows the Subsidy sub-group expanded for 2011.
Note that there is now a new chart button next to the expanded data. Clicking on this will generate two pie charts showing the total generation capacity (MW) and energy generated (MWh) by generators in each of the three subsidy sectors RO, FiT, and unsubsidized:
4. The full generator listings page
If you are seeking information on a particular generator you should go to the Individual Generator page, which can be reached through a link at the top of the Group Totals window. The page looks like this:
This is the first of over 100 pages listing all 10,000 generators in descending rank order by Annual Average MWh generated. The table is sortable. Click the headings to sort the data by that category, and click to reverse the direction of sort.
You can also go to the page dedicated to that individual generator by clicking on the ID number on the left, but generally speaking the best way of finding a generator or group of generators that interests you is to use the Search function, which can reached from the Search link at the head of the page.
5. The Search Page
The search function is very powerful, allowing you to find just one generator by name or number, or to look for classes of generator, for example, by technology type, subsidy, first characters of postcode, number of turbines, accreditation date, or any combination of these. We will start by searching for a single generator.
For example, let's say we want to know about the Little Cheyne Court onshore wind farm. Assuming we know part of its name, Cheyne, we can search for that in the Name search box, and the following list will be returned.
Obviously we aren't interested in Auchencheyne Garden hydro station on this occasion, but this search result illustrates the fact that the search system will return finds even if the search term is part of a whole word.
Some detail is visible for the Little Cheyne Court wind farm, but we would like more, so we click on the ID number to the left of the table, which takes us to the individual page for the Little Cheyne Court Wind Farm.
6. Individual Generator Page
We are now at the lowest level of data in the REF data system, a tabbed panel of data about an individual generator.
The first tab displays general data:
The second shows a Google maps image, with Street View if available. Images of generators are not always available because they have been constructed after Google collected the images, but many generators are covered:
The third tab display a Summary table of annual generation data and load factor.
The fourth tab displays a monthly load factor chart. Note that the bars are different colours where different data sources have been used.
The fifth tab displays a monthly MWh chart, again with different colours for different data sources.
7. More on the Search Function
If we return to the search window we can display one more aspect of the system; namely it is possible to input multiple selection criteria. If we select Country = Scotland, Installed capacity >= 2000 kW (i.e 2 MW) the system will return a four page table listing all renewable electricity generators of greater than or equal to 2 MW in Scotland.
The summary wording at the top of the table tells us that at time that Search was carried out, there were 264 sites with a capacity of 7,073 MW, and that in the year to the end of Dec-2013 (the latest complete calendar year), there were 257 of these sites with a capacity of 7,048 MW generating approximately 20,581 GWh and receiving nearly 15 million ROCs. Note, that a difference between the total number of sites and the number of sites in the latest year arises when generators are decommissioned or when the smaller generators moved from the RO to the Feed in Tariff scheme which does not require generation data to be provided. The user should also be aware that not all these generators will be receiving ROCs, since some will be unsubsidized, or subsidized under the Feed-in Tariff.