For the First Time, Renewables Have Overtaken Fossil Fuels in the UK

Renewable power has, for the first time in the UK’s history produced more power for households and businesses than fossil fuels, according to new data published.

The record was set after the renewable energy share of the UK’s grid rose to 40%- outpacing that of fossil fuel or natural gas-powered electricity generation, marking the first time since 1882 that electricity from wind farms, solar panels and renewable biomass plants has surpassed their fossil fuel competitors.

According to data from Carbon Brief, just ten years ago, fossil fuels accounted for an 80% share of the energy grid’s means of production; in 2019, coal-fired plants account for less than 1% of all the energy generated in the UK.

The Guardian’s Jillian Ambrose writes that “the new milestone confirms predictions made by National Grid that 2019 will be the first year since the Industrial Revolution that zero-carbon electricity - renewables and nuclear - overtakes gas and coal-fired power.” Ambrose goes on to explain that “British coal plants are shutting down ahead of a 2025 ban. By next spring just four coal plants will remain in the UK… which are earmarked for a conversation to burn gas.”

Gas-fired plants make up for the remainder of the fossil fuel portion of the UK’s energy grid, accounting for 38% of all power generated; nuclear adds just under 20% to this figure. Wind power is the UK’s largest source of renewable energy, producing more than 20% of the grid’s power.Newly installed wind-power like the world’s largest wind farm working in combination with solar are proving fruitful for the UK in terms of sustainable energy. So far, these projects have almost doubled the 2,100-megawatts of offshore energy capacity which began supplying UK homes with power in 2018.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK’s minister for energy and clean growth said that the recent revelation is “yet another milestone on our path toward ending our contribution to climate change altogether by 2050.”

“Already, we’ve cut emissions by 40% while growing the economy by two-thirds since 1990. Now, with more offshore wind projects on the way at record low prices, we plan to go even further and faster in the years to come,” he said.

The report from The Guardian says that “according to Renewable UK, the growth of the renewables industry is good news for energy bills, as well as the government, due to the steep fall in the cost of wind and solar power technologies over recent years.”

Luke Clark of Renewable UK says the industry hopes to more than triple its offshore wind capacity by 2030, aiming to generate more than a third of the UK’s total electricity demand with these new wind farm projects slated for development. “The cost of new offshore wind projects, for example, has just fallen to an all-time low, making onshore and offshore wind our lowest-cost largest scale power sources,” he said.

“If the government were to back a range of technologies - like onshore wind and marine renewables - in the same way as it is backing offshore wind, consumers and businesses would be able to fully reap the benefits of the transition to a low carbon economy,” Clark concluded.

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