New analysis from energy and climate analysis site Carbon Brief has revealed that the United Kingdom’s solar industry generated more electricity than the country’s coal plants over the last six months.
The UK-based website dedicated to “covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy” has long-been a trusted source of information regarding the country’s energy mix, and has again come to the party with generation figures from the last six months of 2016 (April through September) which show that solar panels across the UK generated more electricity than coal. In fact, this continues a series of big solar records for the UK, having not only beaten out coal in a single month for the first time ever in May, and then again in July, but also beating out coal for the first ever quarter (June through September) and now, for the first six months.
According to Carbon Brief, using data from Sheffield Solar (the UK’s solar PV industry’s leading scientific data resource) and Gridwatch, solar panels across the UK generated an estimated 6,964 GWh of electricity during the second and third quarters of 2016. This solar output represents approximately 5.2% of the country’s electricity demand for the six-month period, and was nearly 10% higher than the 6,342 GWh generated by coal over the same period.
Shares of UK Generation from Solar and Coal
Not ones to dismiss a stereotype when it’s true, Carbon Brief explained that the UK’s solar output “is strongly affected by the UK’s seasonal cycle” and that “roughly three-quarters of annual UK solar power is generated during the sunnier half-year from April to September” — though to be fair, most of us had just assumed the sunniest part of the year in the UK was between June 30 and July 1. Unsurprisingly, therefore, coal dominates during the winter months.
However, as the chart below shows, while coal does dominate solar during winter, its overall dominance is not what it used to be.
UK Monthly Electricity from Solar and Coal
UK solar capacity has now reached around 12 GW, pushing up the electricity generated from solar by 26% over the past year-to-date — though solar capacity additions have fallen this year due to subsidy cuts. Across the aisle, however, coal generation has fallen rapidly separate from its annual variations, with output in 2016-to-date 65% below what it was a year earlier.
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