UK Set Several Renewable Energy Records In 2017, But Still Has Work To Do To Meet Emissions Goals

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The UK had a banner year in 2017, setting records for renewable energy on several occasions. But most of those relate to coal usage. The UK actually plans to shutter all coal power plants not fitted with carbon capture technology by 2025. It still has a long way to go to meet its long-range emissions reduction goals because so much of its electricity is generated by natural gas facilities and natural gas is a fossil fuel. Although it burns cleaner than coal, it still pumps lots of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

renewable energy

Here are the renewable records set in the UK during 2017:

  • Renewables produced three times more electricity than coal.
  • More electricity was generated by wind than coal on ¾ of the days in 2017.
  • More electricity was generated by solar than coal on ½ the days in 2017.
  • In April, the UK had its first 24-hour period in more than 150 years without using power from coal.
  • Wind, nuclear, and solar generated more electricity than gas and coal combined for the first time ever.

Gareth Redmond-King, a spokesperson for WWF, tells Sky News: “A huge part of it is government support to install new renewables, offshore wind particularly, but also onshore wind and solar that’s enabled the industry to grow — and for much more renewables on the system. Of course, companies have had to adjust to provide for that and build those power stations, and of course the more consumers that switch to clean energy the more demand there is for that to be built.”

But the UK still relies heavily on natural gas for its electrical power. In all, renewables only out-produced all other electricity sources on 23 days in 2017. Andrew Crossland, founder of MyGridGB, which analyzes carbon emissions and energy use, tells the BBC: “The government has focused on reducing coal use which now supplies less than 7% of our electricity. However, if we continue to use gas at the rate that we do, then Britain will miss carbon targets and be dangerously exposed to supply and price risks in the international gas markets.”

The time when renewables are able to challenge gas as the primary source of energy in the UK is still some time in the future. Emma Pinchbeck, executive director of RenewableUK, tells The Guardian: “We want to see more boldness from the Conservative government. In 2018, the government should move to allow onshore wind, now the cheapest form of power for consumers, to be developed in parts of the UK where it is wanted, and agree an ambitious sector deal with the offshore wind industry. The new year could be the first in a golden age for UK renewables.”


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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