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Renewable electricity production soars to nearly 30 per cent, coal falls further

Image credit: PA

Electricity produced from renewable sources accounted for almost 30 per cent of the total used by the UK in the second quarter, while coal fell to just 2 per cent, government figures show.

Statistics from the Department for Business and Energy (Beis) showed that when nuclear was added to the total, low-carbon electricity production represented over half (53.4 per cent) of that generated in the UK.

Earlier this year, Britain experienced its first full day without generating any electricity from coal since the Industrial Revolution. Statistically the polluting fossil fuel accounted for just 2.1 per cent of production in comparison to 5.9 per cent for the same period the year before.

Last year, coal stockpiles in the UK fell to record lows while the amount of electricity originating from solar leapfrogged coal for the first time.

Overall, the rise in renewables’ share of power, up from 25.3 per cent in 2016 to 29.8 per cent this year, was down to more wind turbines and increased wind speeds, as well as lower overall electricity generation, according to the report.

Power generated from onshore and offshore wind both rose compared with the previous year, as did energy from biodegradable waste.

Gas generated 41.3 per cent of the mix, slightly down on last year, and nuclear accounted for a slightly increased 23.6 per cent in the second quarter of the year.

The latest data comes after National Grid revealed that this summer was the “greenest ever” for British power generation, as the share of low-carbon power in the mix rose to 52 per cent for the period from 21 June to 22 September.

Recent weeks have also seen the price of offshore wind tumble, falling by 50 per cent compared with two and a half years ago.

Earlier this week, a coalition of green organisations launched a campaign fronted by ‘Doctor Who’ actor Peter Capaldi calling for the UK to further embrace offshore wind versus other forms of energy.

Industry body RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: “It’s terrific to see that nearly a third of the UK’s electricity is now being generated by renewables, with wind power leading the way.

“The UK’s renewable energy sector is an industrial success story, attracting investment, creating new jobs, and powering our economy.

She urged the government, which has moved to prevent new onshore wind farms being developed, arguing they “often fail to win public support”, to rethink its stance on the technology.

“Onshore wind performed particularly well, with generation increasing by 50 per cent compared to the same period last year.

“Onshore wind is the cheapest form of new power plant, so it plays an absolutely crucial role in keeping consumer bills down.

“When the government holds the next set of competitive auctions for contracts to generate electricity, low-cost onshore wind deserves the chance to compete.”

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, said: “These latest figures underline that renewable energy is now an integral part of our energy mix, supporting our view that future investment must support a variety of different technologies.

“As the recent offshore wind auction shows, the cost of renewables is falling as they play an increasing role in powering our homes and businesses, and we deliver low-carbon economy at the lowest cost to consumers.”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The recent energy trends data shows an increase in low-carbon generation, with our dependence on fossil fuels diminishing.

“This is good news and shows clearly why a balanced mix of energy sources is good for decarbonisation as well as energy security.

“With two-thirds of the UK’s currently available power due to retire by 2030, including all but one of the current nuclear fleet, the UK will need the full range of low-carbon technologies to provide the reliable, secure and readily available power for homes, businesses and public services.”

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