Solar Energy Consuming Coal’s UK Market Share

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Solar energy, and renewable energy as a whole, is stealing notable market share from coal energy in the UK, according to the most recent market analysis from EnAppSys.

The findings follow the general trend that’s been observed in the UK market (and other market, like the USA) in recent times — the downslide of coal energy and the rise of renewables. Of particular note, solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation surpassed coal-based electricity production for the first time in the UK during May 2016 (which we covered enthusiastically, of course).

rooftop solar UK

The quarterly report placed solar PV electricity production in the UK during May 2016 at 1.38 terrawatt-hours (TWh), and coal-based electricity production during the same time period at 0.89 TWh. That makes for a more than 50% discrepancy between the two.

Business Green continues, revealing that, “during the April to June period, levels of coal generation fell by as much as 70% compared to the previous quarter and 76% in comparison to the same quarter in 2015. For three days straight during May, the UK’s electricity system also passed the historic milestone of being coal-free for the first time in more than 130 years.”

This rapid decline was mostly down to the recent “closure of many coal generators from the wholesale market as a result of poor market conditions largely attributed to the UK’s carbon price floor and a reduction in the price of gas power.”

Continuing: “Meanwhile, during the second quarter solar PV sites generated 23% more electricity than the previous quarter and 174% more than the same quarter in 2015. The solar increase reflects a drive from solar firms over the past year to obtain Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) for solar farms before a March 31 2016 deadline, EnAppSys said. However, given the deadline has now passed current estimated UK solar capacity of 11-12 GW is now expected to grow much slower over the next few years.”

The decline of coal means that the UK’s energy policy has been “more successful in the short term than was ever expected,” according to the director of EnAppSys, Phil Hewitt.

Hewitt continued:

This quarter’s electricity generation picture provides a clear example of how energy policy decisions can affect the electricity supply market. The closure of the Renewable Obligation to small solar farms has seen a mass pre-deadline buildout of solar generation and DECC’s negative view of coal, in combination of the capacity mechanism and carbon price floor measures, has seen coal generation opt out of the wholesale market much earlier than expected.

With planned expansions in renewables, battery storage, import capacity and nuclear generation all still intended, it is clear that that the era of large thermal generation is slowly coming to an end, with less room for large coal and gas plants in the market. Overall the market is now clearly continuing to move towards a model that supports the intermittent supply of renewable generation through flexible generation.

Many Brits will certainly have an easier time breathing thanks to the shift, and cancer rates will be improved as well.

Photo by Tom Chance (some rights reserved)

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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