For the first time, wind power has overtaken coal as a power source in the UK, according to analysts. The news comes after the closing of three major coal plants last year, which put coal generation at 9.2 percent, down from 22.6 percent in 2015. This put coal power at its lowest level of output in 80 years. Environmental advocates described these developments as “fantastic news.”
Wind power made up 11.5 percent of power generated, after a slight decrease from 12 percent in 2015.
Simon Evans, policy editor at climate analyst group Carbon Brief, said:
“The past 12 months have seen a year of firsts for the UK’s electricity system. At the broadest level, the UK grid is changing as centralized power stations are joined by thousands of smaller sites, particularly renewables, as part of efforts to decarbonize electricity supplies.”
UK ministers have pledged to phase out coal power by 2025, in an effort to meet targets for carbon emissions. However, they expect the last coal plant to close within the next five years, with environmental policies making coal power increasingly impractical economically.
The past year has seen a number of records set in relation to renewable energy in the UK. On certain days, no coal power was generated at all. Solar overtook coal for six straight months. Analysis by Carbon Brief showed that gas-fired power stations made up most of the difference from reduced coal generation. However, renewable energy also grew significantly through last year, with a record amount of biomass and wind power generated on Christmas Day. In 2015, Carbon Brief found that renewable energy drew more investment than the 11 billion pounds spent on gas and oil power. The decline of oil prices in recent years has helped investment in renewable energy overtake oil and gas power, contrary to predictions soon after the slump began. That same year almost half, 46 percent, of power generated in the UK came from clean energy sources, including wind, solar, and nuclear power. Renewables specifically accounted for 25 percent of UK power that year.
According to RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive, Maf Smith:
“Renewables are now part of our energy mainstream, helping us modernise the way we keep the lights on by building new infrastructure for the generations to come.”