Renewable energy outstrips coal for first time in UK electricity mix
Renewable energy has for the first time surpassed coal in supplying the UK’s electricity for a whole quarter, according to government statistics. The revelation of the surge in wind, solar and bioenergy to a record 25% comes in a week when the government has been criticised for cutting support for clean energy.
The high performance of renewable electricity between April and June, the latest period data is available for, was due to both more wind and sun and more turbines and solar panels having been installed, compared to the same period the year before, when renewables contributed 16.4% of electricity.
Gas-fired power stations provided the most electricity - 30% - with renewables second. Nuclear power was third with 21.5% and coal - the most polluting fuel - fell back to fourth, with 20.5%. Ageing coal and nuclear plants have been closing in recent years, while renewable energy has been rapidly rolling out.
Since May’s general election, Conservative ministers have argued that the subsidies given to renewable energy were rising too fast and announced plans to cut them, including an 87% reduction for solar power and an end to support for onshore wind farms. Industry figures said the government was slashing support too heavily and would strangle renewable energy just as it was taking off.
“The new statistics show that the UK is relying increasingly on dependable renewable sources to keep the country powered up, with onshore and offshore wind playing the leading roles in our clean energy mix,” said RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffery.
“We’ve had a series of disappointing announcements from ministers since May which unfortunately betray a lack of positive ambition at the heart of government. If ministers want to see good statistics like we’ve had today continuing into the years ahead, they have to knuckle down, listen to the high level of public support we enjoy, and start making positive announcements.”
The renewable surge was led by solar energy, which more than doubled between the second quarters of 2014 and 2015. Electricity from wind rose by 65%, helped by the expansion of several large-scale offshore wind farms, while electricity from biomass rose 26%, mainly due to a switch from coal to wood chips at a unit of Drax power station.