Congratulations are in order; the UK’s green energy output has surpassed fossil fuel energy for the first time since the nation built its first coal-based power plant in London in 1882. Renewable energy now constitutes 40% of the UK’s Q3 energy output, as multiple offshore wind farms become integrated into the electrical grid.
According to the latest report from UK-based climate change research group Carbon Brief, electricity generated from green energy sources, such as wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectric power plants, totaled 29.5 TWh from July to September, surpassing the 29.1 TWh from fossil fuel power plants.
The UK’s historical efforts to raise renewable energy production were rewarded accordingly when renewable energy facilities overtook fossil fuel facilities in Q3 last year. 2018 also saw the operation of several offshore wind farms, such as the 588 MW Beatrice Wind Farm in Scotland and the 659 MW Walney Extension, which began operation in September. These new offshore wind farms were directly responsible for the exponential growth of offshore wind farm-generated electricity to 2100 MW in 2018.
On the other hand, the largest wind farm in the world, Hornsea One, also based in the UK, was successfully integrated into the electrical grid in February 2019. The 1.2 GW-capable wind farm reached maximum capacity in October, in turn driving green energy production past fossil fuel energy production.
Wind turbines account for the bulk of the UK’s renewable energy due to the presence of ultra-large-scale offshore wind farms. Wind power accounts for 20% of total British energy production, while biomass and solar energy account for 12% and 6% respectively. According to Luke Clark, Head of External Affairs for British wind and wave power trade association RenewableUK, the wind farm industry is aiming for a 300% growth of offshore wind farms by 2030, which will account for over 33% of British energy production.
What about the once-king of electricity that is coal-fired power? Up until a few years ago, coal-fired power and natural gas each accounted for 50% of fossil fuel power, which constituted 80% of total electricity production. However, the latest data from Carbon Brief indicates that fossil fuel power makes up only 1% of electricity production today.
Since 2015, the UK has committed to shutting down its coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas, which carries less risk of environmental pollution. At that time, coal-fired power made up 28% of British electricity generation. As coal-fired power plants are gradually phased out, they make up only 0.4 TWh of 29.1 TWh total fossil fuel power, compared to 28.4 TWh from natural gas. All but four coal-fired power plants in the UK are projected to close by next spring, with two of the remaining four being converted into natural gas power plants.
Kwasi Kwarteng, British Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, suggests that British carbon emissions have decreased by 40% since 1990. As well, the UK will continue to expand its network of wind farms as manufacturing costs decline. RenewableUK further suggests that the cost declines are likely to continue, as the new wind farms are expected to generate electricity at £40/MWh –significantly lower than the average electricity price on the wholesale energy market.
（Image：Flickr/Andreas Klinke Johannsen CC BY 2.0）