For the July-September 2015 time frame, renewable sources produced more electricity than coal in the UK. The energy specialist EnAppSys found that 14.3 TWh was generated by renewables then, which was 20% of the UK’s average electricity production. Output from coal-fired power plants fell 54% during the same period, due to outages related to maintenance and lower gas prices. Gas and nuclear maintained their top two positions in UK electricity production.
That renewably-sourced electricity surpassed coal in the UK is quite a milestone. Many critics of renewable energy have said for years that such a thing couldn’t be done any time soon: coal is cheaper, with a proven technology, etc. Actually, burning coal has all sorts of problems associated with it, such as climate change emissions and toxic air pollution.
Everyone knows how dangerous coal mining is; breathing coal dust and mine collapses have resulted in a number of fatalities over the decades. For example, this database states that there were over 100,000 accidents and deaths related to coal mining. The human toll associated with coal is generally not mentioned too much when critics or opponents of renewable energy attack solar and wind power.
It was an increase in solar power installations that contributed to renewable energy electricity output surging past coal’s. Adding new solar power plants and installations creates jobs that don’t expose workers to harmful coal dust or put them in dangerous, cramped spaces underground. There is no heavy machinery to operate and solar power workers get to be outdoors. Solar and wind power jobs are not dangerous typically — at least not nearly as dangerous as mining — and therefore are not ever going to be as stressful.
Generating electricity from renewable sources doesn’t produce any harmful by-products, but burning coal does, “In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.”
Image Credit: Mtaylor848, Wiki Commons