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UK coal use ‘plummets’ to new record low, according to official statistics

New government figures show that renewable energy continues to grow, while coal use has fallen to its lowest levels since the Industrial Revolution.

According to the figures, renewable energy made up 35.5 per cent of the UK’s electricity generation between April and June this year, up nearly 10 per cent from 32.0 per cent in 2018. This increase was helped by the completion of the offshore Beatrice Wind Farm, which houses 84 wind turbines in the North Sea and which powers up to 450,000 homes.

Last year, 33.0 per cent of electricity in the UK was generated from renewable sources. Considerable advances have been made in boosting renewable electricity generation in the UK over the past decade, with more than £52bn invested in renewable energy since 2010 and 99 per cent of the UK’s current solar capacity being brought online this decade.

“The UK is a world leader in renewables and these figures are another step in the right direction on our path towards reaching net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, the minister for energy and clean growth, in a statement. “With more offshore wind projects on the way at record low prices, we are set to benefit from even more clean energy in the years to come.”

During this period, coal made up just 0.6 per cent of electricity generation. The second quarter also saw the UK’s first fortnight entirely free of coal since the 1880s when, in May, the UK went 18 days and 6 hours unsupported by coal. The UK is on track to phrase out coal-fired power generation by 2025.

Despite the positive statistics presented by the government, the majority of electric was generated from fossil fuels during this period, with gas providing just over 50 per cent. Nuclear power met approximately 20 per cent of energy needs. This news also comes in the same week that EDF, the French company building the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, said it needed to add an additional £3bn to the total cost of completing the work due to unforeseen expenses.  

In June, Parliament set into law a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This will require an estimated £1tn effort to boost renewable and other zero-carbon forms of power generation, end gas heating of homes, phase out petrol and diesel cars, among other ambitious steps. The independent Committee on Climate Change advised the government that this target would place the UK in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit average global temperature rises to a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The commitment was introduced to Parliament by outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May and enshrined into law following high-profile action demanding serious action tackling the ‘climate emergency’, with students walking out of classes and Extinction Rebellion activists peacefully occupying some parts of central London.

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