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We’ve just hit another major milestone in the shift towards renewables: in the third quarter of 2019, the UK generated more electricity from renewable sources than it did from fossil fuel power stations, an industry report says.
If confirmed, that means the combined energy produced from wind farms, solar panels, biomass and hydropower plants (29.5 terawatt hours) exceeded the amount of energy produced from coal, oil, and gas (29.1 terawatt hours).
While the data needs to be independently verified, let’s hope it signals a tipping point for the future of the country’s energy production – this is something that hasn’t happened since the UK’s first public electricity generating power station opened in 1882.
Across July, August and September, renewable energy production accounted for 40 percent of the UK’s electricity, with fossil fuels (mostly gas) just behind at 39 percent. Of the remaining 21 percent, the majority came from nuclear power stations.
According to Carbon Brief, fossil fuels may edge out renewables over 2019 as a whole when all the statistics are in, but it’s a note of hope for the future. New wind farms coming online are the main reason for the bump in renewable energy production since June.
Less than 10 years ago, the fossil fuel contribution to the UK electricity market was around four-fifths, but the situation is quickly changing. Back in May, the country went six days without burning any coal at all – and indeed coal-powered plants are due to be phased out completely by 2025.
However, there is a caveat worth flagging: 12 percent of that renewable energy came from burning biomass and wood pellets, which don’t meet the strictest definition of renewables – regrowing forests to suck up the carbon dioxide produced can take some time.
Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to see that the country that kicked off the Industrial Revolution is now helping to lead the way towards a renewable future – because of the UK’s size it’s not going to make the biggest difference to CO2 levels overall, but let’s hope the more populous nations continue to follow suit.
With carbon dioxide emissions continuing to break records, we need a momentous shift in the other direction to put the brakes on our climate crisis and avoid the worst of its effects.
Luke Clark, Head of External Affairs at Renewable UK, told the Guardian that future developments in the industry should be good news for carbon dioxide emissions as well as household bills in the UK.
“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 large scale power sources,” says Clark.
“If 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.”