Rise of renewables as wind farms power past coal plants
Industry predicts “golden age” for UK renewables as clean electricity outstrips coal generation on most days in the year.
British wind farms generated more electricity than coal plants on more than 75% of days this year, figures show.
The continuing rise of renewables and the decline of the most polluting fossil fuel also saw solar outperform coal more than half the time, data provided by analysis website MyGridGB to the Press Association shows.
Overall, renewables provided more power than coal plants on 315 days in 2017, or more than 90% of the year, figures up to December 12 show, while coal was beaten by wind on 263 days and by solar on 180 days.
Coal generation only exceeded solar on 10 days from the beginning of April to the end of August.
In total, renewables generated more than three times the amount of electricity as coal over the year to December 12.
British #electricity has been 46% low carbon over the last 12 months with carbon emissions below 280gCO2/kWh.— MyGridGB (@myGridGB) December 19, 2017
That's down from 486gCO2/kWh in 2012. Source: https://t.co/Fl0ODGaJN4 pic.twitter.com/zLFBsoYfo6
The figures reflect a year in which a number of “green” records have been set for the power sector, including the first full day without any coal power on the system, new high levels of solar generation and tumbling prices for new offshore wind farms.
The Government has committed to phasing out coal power which does not have technology to capture and permanently store its carbon emissions by 2025, as part of efforts to cut the UK’s greenhouse gases to meet legal targets.
But with daily output from wind only outstripping gas on two days of the year, and renewables overall – including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower – beating the fossil fuel on just 23 days, there were calls for more support for low-carbon power.
By 2025, no unabated coal will be used to generate electricity in the UK. This will reduce carbon emissions and make our air cleaner #OnePlanetSummit https://t.co/w97Zlq9nRx pic.twitter.com/z6CTK6yROM— Dept for BEIS (@beisgovuk) December 12, 2017
Dr Andrew Crossland from MyGridGB and the Durham Energy Institute said: “The Government has focused on reducing coal use which now supplies less than 7% of our electricity.
“However, if we continue to use gas at the rate that we do, then Britain will miss carbon targets and be dangerously exposed to supply and price risks in the international gas markets.
“Clearly, refreshed government support for low carbon alternatives is now needed to avoid price and supply shocks for our heat and electricity supplies.”
Industry body RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said the decision to phase out coal, as part of efforts by the Government to continue to lead on tackling climate change, was being made possible by a home-grown renewables industry “coming into its own”.
But she said: “We want to see more boldness from the Conservative Government.
“In 2018, the Government should move to allow onshore wind, now the cheapest form of power for consumers, to be developed in parts of the UK where it is wanted, and agree an ambitious sector deal with the offshore wind industry.
“The New Year could be the first in a golden age for UK renewables.”
:: MyGridGB uses data on the amount of electricity produced in Great Britain from BM Reports and Sheffield University.