Low-carbon electricity production reaches record high in the UK

Government statistics show that over 50 per cent of the UK’s electricity was generated from low-carbon sources in 2018, although a general increase in energy production also saw greater use of fossil fuels.

Last year saw a 2.9 per cent increase in energy production, driven primarily by growth from oil, wind, solar and bioenergy and waste. While fossil fuels did increase slightly, coal reached a record low as the fuel becomes increasingly unviable financially compared to other options.

The rise in energy usage was blamed on the need for extra heating during February and March 2018 following the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ spell of extremely cold weather.

The share of power generation from low-carbon technology including renewables and nuclear reactors rose to a record 52.6 per cent last year, up 2.6 percentage points on 2017, the figures show.

Renewables such as on and offshore wind, solar and biomass generated a record one-third of power last year, up from 29.2 per cent in 2017, the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) reveals.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) estimates that overall carbon emissions fell by 2.4 per cent, or 9.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, between 2017 and 2018 mainly due to the changes in the fuel mix used for electricity generation. This is consistent with recent trends that show the UK’s carbon emissions falling by two-fifths since 1990. 

However, in March Carbon Brief warned that the UK’s progress was slowing and it expressed concern that the falls in carbon production would not be sustained.

A BEIS spokesman said: “Last year renewables provided a record-breaking 33 per cent of our electricity

“We have cut our use of coal by almost 80 per cent in the past 10 years. We will continue to break records for renewables as we power towards #netzero.”

Industry body RenewableUK said the figures show wind provided a record 17.1 per cent of the UK’s electricity in 2018, with 9.1 per cent coming from onshore wind and 8 per cent from offshore.

Deputy chief executive Emma Pinchbeck said: “These record-breaking figures clearly show that investment in renewables and the Government’s championing of offshore wind is delivering rapid change to our energy system.

“As well as helping keep prices down for consumers and boosting the competitiveness of our businesses, renewables are a huge economic opportunity, bringing employment and investment to all parts of the UK.

“But to achieve its net zero ambitions, the new Government needs to go further and faster - and the first steps should be removing the barriers to onshore wind which is our cheapest source of power, and building on our successes in innovative technologies like tidal energy and floating wind where the UK can be a world leader.”

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