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NI hailed as renewables overtake fossil fuels for power generation


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Wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower generated a record 42% of UK power last year, while fossil fuels - mostly gas - produced 41%, analysis from think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende found

Wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower generated a record 42% of UK power last year, while fossil fuels - mostly gas - produced 41%, analysis from think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende found

Wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower generated a record 42% of UK power last year, while fossil fuels - mostly gas - produced 41%, analysis from think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende found

Northern Ireland had a significant role in ensuring that renewables overtook fossil fuels to become the biggest source of electricity in the UK for the first time in 2020, a green campaigner has said.

Wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower generated a record 42% of UK power last year, while fossil fuels - mostly gas - produced 41%, analysis from think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende found.

In 2019, renewables generated 37% of the UK's electricity, compared with 45% for fossil fuels.

Renewables also overtook fossil fuels as the main source of electricity for the European Union in 2020, with Germany and Spain reaching the same tipping point.

In the UK, the share of power from wind turbines continues to increase, making up nearly a quarter (24%) of generation in 2020, double the share it had just five years ago and up from 20% in 2019.

Coal power, which is due to be phased out by as early as 2024, accounted for just 2% of overall electricity production in 2020, while gas fell from 41% of generation in 2019 to 37% in 2020, the analysis showed.

It is a massive transformation of the UK's power system, which only a decade ago generated more than three-quarters of its power from fossil fuels, mostly gas and coal, and just a small fraction - 7% in 2010 - from renewable sources.

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Steven Agnew, head of RenewableNI, said: "With almost half of our electricity generated from renewables, Northern Ireland has played a significant role in helping the UK achieve this milestone.

"There is also potential to do so much more. By setting an 80% target for renewable electricity generation by 2030, we can stimulate over £1billion of direct investment in new projects.

"An 80 by 30 target will also significantly add to the 2,000 jobs that have already been created by the industry and deliver the greenhouse gas reductions needed to meet climate ambitions."

Charles Moore, Ember's European programme lead, said: "With Boris Johnson's 40-gigawatt 2030 offshore wind target, gas generation is set for further rapid declines over the 2020s.

"It is clear the UK has started its journey towards gas power phase-out in 2035, as recommended by the Climate Change Committee."

The committee, the UK's independent climate adviser, has said there needs to be a phasing out of gas power plants which do not have technology to capture carbon emissions by 2035 as part of efforts to tackle climate change.

Solar power, which generates 4% of UK electricity, has barely grown since 2018, which the analysts said reflected a lack of supportive policies for installing the technology.

Nuclear accounted for less than a fifth (17%) of generation. Bioenergy generated 12% of the UK's electricity in 2020, rising slightly since 2019, which the analysts said raises concerns over relying on biomass such as burning wood from forests to replace coal, which may not deliver the same benefits for the climate as other renewables.

The switchover between fossil fuels and renewables came as demand fell significantly last year in the face of the pandemic lockdowns, which took place on the back of long-term declines in electricity use.


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