Over July, August and September of this year the UK’s solar, biomass, wind and hydro installations generated more electricity than fossil fuels for the first time in the history of the country’s grid, new analysis from Carbon Brief has revealed.
The website reports that renewable energy generated 29.6TWh of clean electricity in the third quarter of the year, compared with 29.1TWh from fossil fuels.
Carbon Brief points out it is the first time renewable energy has produced more electricity than fossil fuels since records began in 1882.
However, renewable energy outpaced fossil fuels on 103 of the 273 individual days between January and September, more than one-third of the days in the year so far.
Much of the success is down to a dramatic expansion in wind and solar power across the UK, alongside a rapid decline of coal power on the grid.
Coal now provides around two per cent of electricity in the UK compared to 40 per cent just a few years ago, with gas now delivering the vast majority of fossil fuel power.
n 2010, coal, gas and oil generated more than 10 times as much electricity as renewable energy.
Since then electricity generation from renewable energy has more than quadrupled and demand has fallen, squeezing the share of power being generated by fossil fuels.
The decline of coal has been underscored by the demolition of the cooling towers at Ferrybridge power station in West Yorkshire.
The site had produced electricity for 50 years, until owners SSE closed it in 2016.
The government has promised to end all coal-fired electricity generation in the UK by 2025.
Analysis by National Grid in June suggested that for the first time since the Industrial Revolution more British electricity was set to come from zero-carbon sources, which includes wind, solar, hydro and nuclear but not biomass, in 2019 than from fossil fuels.
That analysis included the mix of power coming through underwater cables known as interconnectors from other countries, such as France.
Responding to the analysis, RenewableUK’s director of strategic communications Luke Clark said the massive growth of renewable power in the UK was “great news not just for the environment but also for consumers”, with the cost of offshore wind projects falling to an all-time low, making on and offshore wind the cheapest largest scale power sources.
He added: “The expansion of clean power is set to accelerate in the years ahead, as our offshore wind capacity will more than treble by 2030, generating more than a third of the UK’s electricity.
“The public wants to see faster action to tackle climate change and meet our net zero emissions target.
Carbon Brief added that it is a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ renewable energy can out-generate fossil fuels over an entire year.
However, it warned that the ongoing failure to decarbonise other parts of the UK economy puts the country off-track to meeting its net zero emissions goal for 2050.