Drop in UK greenhouse gas emissions as renewables show 'incredible growth'
The UK's greenhouse gas emissions fell below 500 million tonnes for the first time last year, as renewables hit a record 25% of the power mix, official figures show.
The collection of seven greenhouse gases dropped 3% between 2014 and 2015 to 497 million tonnes, with the biggest polluter carbon dioxide falling 4% to 405 million tonnes, the provisional Department of Energy and Climate Change figures reveal.
Carbon pollution from energy supplies fell 13% in 2015 due to less use of coal for power and more nuclear and renewables.
Power generation from renewables jumped from 19% in 2014 to 25% of the total in 2015, overtaking coal which fell to 23%, while gas accounted for 30% of the electricity mix and nuclear 21%, separate figures on energy showed.
Juliet Davenport, chief executive of green energy company Good Energy, said: "Yet again renewables are really proving their worth and it's fantastic to see record amounts of electricity generated by renewable sources.
"Renewables have shown incredible growth in the last few years and are leading the way when it comes to making the UK more energy secure in the future."
The emissions figures showed greenhouse gas pollution from the business sector fell 3.1%, driven by a reduction in the use of blast furnace gas for iron and steel industrial combustion as a result of the closure of the SSI steelworks at Redcar.
But emissions from transport, the public sector and homes all rose - with slightly cooler temperatures in 2015 than the previous year leading to an increase in gas heating by households.
The statistics come after experts played down the fears of blackouts this winter as a series of coal-fired power stations wholly or partially shut, leaving margins very tight in the absence of new baseload supplies.
They reveal that use of coal for power plants has fallen by almost two-thirds (63%), with a switch to less polluting gas and the growth of renewables.
Total emissions from electricity generation have halved since 1990, despite power consumption being up 10% in 2015 on the 1990s figures - although demand peaked in 2005 and has fallen since then.
Overall energy consumption, which also includes transport fuels and heating, is provisionally estimated to have decreased by around 10% since 1990.
The figures also confirm that greenhouse gas pollution fell 8% in 2014, and carbon was down 9% on the previous year.
Since 1990, the reference year under the Kyoto international treaty on climate change, the UK's greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 38% and carbon emissions have dropped by 32%.
Industry body RenewableUK's deputy chief executive, Maf Smith, said: "These excellent figures show that renewable energy is delivering huge amounts of clean electricity right now, and that overall energy costs are coming down - including wind energy.
"Putting the consumer first means putting renewables first. As old coal turns off, renewables are quietly taking its place, delivering energy security and value for money.
"It makes more sense than ever to fully support and take advantage of our natural resources."
Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK policy director, said: " The decrease in burning dirty coal, and the corresponding drop in both carbon and other polluting emissions, is exactly what we need to be seeing right now, a trend that will accelerate this year as even more old coal comes off line.
"But coal needs to be replaced with a mix of energy efficiency, smarter energy use and new generation capacity, and that's where our energy policy is failing."
He accused the Government of "piling money on to the wrong horses" by backing shale gas and a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, Somerset, while implementing policy changes that damaged clean energy sources - and urged ministers to reverse those moves.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "Our plan is working: we're delivering affordable, secure and low-carbon energy for families and businesses.
"Last year energy bills were down by £46 and we got a quarter of our electricity from renewable sources."