The UK now draws more electricity from renewable energy sources than from fossil fuels. In a national first, the UK’s capacity for renewable energy is greater than that of coal and other fossil fuels, marking a significant step towards building a clean energy nation. I don’t know about you, but with fracking – the bond villain’s means-to-power made real – back on the table, this is a welcomed breath of fresh air, literally.
The current split between fossil fuels and renewable energy generation is pretty much 50/50. However, renewables have just tipped it, taking claim to 41.9 gigawatts compared to the 41.2GW produced by fossil fuels. These statistics, compiled by Imperial College London, reflect the consequences of two factors.
Firstly, green energy is on the rise in the UK. We’re home to two of the world’s largest wind farms, and will welcome a third and even larger one after the completion of Scottish Power’s East Anglia One project, set to open in 2020.
Secondly, fossil fuels are seemingly on the out. The UK government is seeking to completely phase out coal by 2025, making it no surprise that coal capacity has dropped by a quarter over the last year. It may also have something to do with the UK’s six-remaining coal power stations dating as far back as the sixties, highlighting that power companies would rather gradually decommission the stations instead of shouldering expensive short-term renovation costs.
The victory of renewable power-generation is impressive, however, it’s important to remember that this only accounts for electricity; the UK still relies on gas for 85% of its heating. Nonetheless, significant progress is being made. Notably, 30% of heating now comes from wind energy during peak usage and, with the recent opening of the Cumbria wind farm (the largest on the planet), this percentage is only likely to increase.
A trend is being set, and it looks like it’s sticking. Only last month Scottish Power sold its last gas-powered electricity stations to Drax for £700m. By the end of 2018, when the deal is due to conclude, Scottish Power’s electricity will be generated entirely by wind.
There’s still a long way to go, though, and other nations are certainly ahead of us in this effort. In 2017, Costa Rica’s electricity supply came entirely from renewable energies for 300 days and the Central American nation is aiming to be completely carbon neutral by 2021 – four years before the decommissioning of coal power stations in the UK.
Whether large power companies are moving to renewables simply to combat climate change is still to be known – after all, they are opting for the semi-free acquisition of energy instead of the costs of mining fossil fuels. Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction, so I’ll take it.