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Green Energies in the UK Reached a New Milestone in 2017 as Renewables Surpassed Coal in Domestic Generation on 315 Days of the Year

published: 2018-01-08 10:56

The UK achieved several important milestone in environmental sustainability and green energy development during 2017. In April 2017, the country’s electricity grid for the first time in 135 years operated for a full day without relying on coal power. Also, renewable energies generated more than 50% of the UK’s electricity for the first time in June 2017. Going forward, the UK government plans to continue investing in renewable energies and close down all domestic coal-fired power plants by 2025.

From 1 January to 12 December 2017, renewable energies (e.g. wind, solar, and etc.) supplied more electricity to the UK’s grid than coal power did on 315 days. During the same period, wind power generated more electricity than coal power on 263 days, and solar power outperformed coal power on 180 days.

Electricity produced by coal-fired power plants in the UK still surpassed that by the country’s solar photovoltaic (PV) projects within a short aggregate period of 10 days during the summer of 2017. From a wider perspective, however, renewable energies provided more power than coal for about 90% of 2017.

In the future, the UK will keep raising the share of renewable energies in the country’s electricity generation on a per year basis. Energy experts have pointed out that the UK government will commit more resources to developing wind farms and solar PV projects as it gradually phases out coal-fired power plants by 2025. From 30 November 2016 to 30 November 2017, the UK saw its solar PV capacity expanded by 902 megawatts, amounting to a growth of around 7%. Furthermore, the new solar PV capacity established in the UK for the entire 2017 is estimated to reach around 1 gigawatts.

Natural gas still occupies a large portion of the UK’s electricity generation

Among the fossil fuels used in the UK’s electricity generation, the share of natural gas remains large even as the share of coal has become insignificant. Because of the high consumption of natural gas, renewable energies generation surpassed the overall fossil fuel generation in the UK on just 23 days of 2017.

Dr. Andrew Crossland, founder of MyGridGB, told BBC that the UK continues to rely on natural gas just as its government wants to eliminate coal from the domestic energy mix. This means that the country may not be able to reach its targets on reducing carbon emissions. Crossland said the best solution for the UK is to aggressively transition to low-carbon generation options as to avoid electricity supply problems and price swings of natural gas on the international market. MyGridGB specializes in analyzing the UK’s carbon emissions and energy use.

Fossil fuels dominated the UK’s electricity generation two years ago in 2015. At that time, coal and natural gas separately accounted for 28% and 48% of the country’s energy mix. To tackle the carbon emission problem and shift towards green energies, the UK government therefore set the following goals: decommission all domestic coal-fired power plants within a 10-year period (by 2025) and raise the share of renewables in the country’s energy mix to 30% by 2030.

According to research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, both the UK and Germany are on the path to have renewables representing 50% of their respective energy mixes before 2020.

(The above article is an English translation of a Chinese article written by Daisy Chuang. The photo at the top of the article shows Battersea Power Station, a coal-fired power plant in the UK that was decommissioned in 1983. Credit of the photo goes to mendhak at Flickr, and the use of the photo falls under the license of CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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