Energy without CO2 emissions became Britain’s largest source of electricity in 2019, being almost half of the country’s energy and surpassing fossil fuels for the first time
After a dramatic decrease in coal energy and an increase in renewable and low carbon energy, 2019 was the cleanest year of energy recorded for Britain, according to National Grid, which owns and operates the electricity transmission network in England and Wales, and also directs the Scottish networks.
The latest National Grid data shows that wind farms, solar and nuclear energy, along with the energy imported by submarine cables, delivered 48.5% of Britain’s electricity in 2019. This compares with the 43% generated by fossil fuels: coal, gas and other carbon sources such as oil and diesel. The remaining 8.5% was generated by biomass, such as wood pellets.
This milestone occurs when the United Kingdom enters the midpoint between 1990 and 2050, the year in which it has committed to achieving at least a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions based on 1990 levels and become a net-zero carbon economy.
A decade ago, fossil fuels generated more than three-quarters of all electricity, while zero-carbon sources accounted for less than a quarter (22.8%), with a wind of 1.3%. Then, coal plants provided almost a third of UK electricity. This has decreased to 1.9%, and Britain set a new record for running out of coal-based energy in the summer of 2019: it spent 18 days from May to early June without using coal to generate electricity, the longest since 1882.
Later this winter, the United Kingdom will be left with only four coal-fired power plants. The EDF Energy Cottam coal plant in Nottinghamshire closed this year and two other coal plants, Aberthaw B of RWE and Fiddler’s Ferry of SSE, will close in March 2020.
National Grid figures show a dramatic change in the last two decades. Wind farms, solar panels and hydroelectric power now generate just over a quarter of Britain’s electricity, compared to 2.3% in 1990. Nuclear power accounts for 17%, compared to almost 20% in 1990. However, the use of gas, a fossil fuel – also shot up to generate more than 38% of the country’s energy last year, compared to only 0.1% in 1990.
The National Grid executive president, John Pettigrew, said that “upon entering a new decade, this is really a historic moment and an opportunity to reflect on how much has been achieved. At National Grid, we know that we have a fundamental role in accelerating towards a cleaner future and we are committed to playing our part in delivering a safe and secure energy system that works for everyone.
Other recent government figures showed that the growing fleet of offshore wind projects in the UK generated more electricity than offshore wind farms for the first time in the third quarter. Since then, wind power reached new highs during windy weather in early December to generate almost 45% of UK electricity in one day.
In December, National Grid unveiled plans to invest almost £ 10 billion in gas and electricity networks in the United Kingdom over the next five years. Of this, almost 20,000 million pounds have been allocated to the transition to a net-zero carbon electricity system by 2025, including investments in new equipment and technology.
Another 85 million will support changes in the way people heat their homes, changing from gas boilers to technologies such as electric heat pumps and hydrogen boilers. National Grid estimates that more than 23 million homes will need to install new low-carbon heating solutions by 2050.