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Published on January 7th, 2018 | by James Ayre


UK Produced More Electricity From “Low Carbon” Sources Than Coal & Gas In 2017 (1st Time) … But Will Need To Invest More In Cleantech To Meet Climate Change Goals (Carbon Brief)

January 7th, 2018 by  

If the UK is to meet its climate change and greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals, then it will need to invest more in so-called clean energy and cleantech. That’s the takeaway of a new analysis and report from Carbon Brief, which utilized data provided by Imperial College London.

This is despite the achievement in 2017 of the first year in the UK where “low carbon” power plants and installations provided the majority of the country’s electricity.

I put “low carbon” in quotes as biomass represented 9% of that figure, and I remain skeptical of the low-carbon credentials of much of what goes on in the large-scale biomass prospect sector.

Wind energy had a pretty solid year in the UK in 2017, though, having provided around 15% of the country’s electricity during the year. That figure was eclipsed by the 21% figure held by nuclear energy, though.

“Even though there’s been good progress so far, there isn’t enough new low-carbon generation that we know of to meet the UK’s targets,” summarized Simon Evans, the policy editor at Carbon Brief, in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Here’s more from that coverage: “Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 42% since 1990, meaning it is half way toward meeting a legally binding target to cut these emissions by 2050 to 80% below 1990 levels.

“It is investing in projects to support new nuclear technology, cut the cost of renewables and encourage people to buy low-emission vehicles, as Britain’s aging coal and nuclear plants are due to close in the 2020s. But initiatives to fund technology to capture carbon emissions from power plants and industry and store them underground have yet to produce a commercial-scale project.”

And are unlikely to ever do so … to throw in my two cents. Hence the need to focus on the fast phaseout of heavily polluting old coal power plants.

As it stands, though, most of the UK’s electricity is coming from gas-fired power plants — with the generation modality having possessed a 40% market share in 2017, according to Carbon Brief.

“New nuclear costs are far higher than anticipated and carbon capture hasn’t even got off the ground yet,” explained Tom Jennings, a policy director at the Carbon Trust. “The big challenges are low carbon transport — such as investment in electric vehicles — and heat.”

To elaborate on that, emissions from the transportation and building sectors are actually mostly rising — cuts in emissions in recent times have mostly been on the backs of the power and waste sectors.

While building sector emissions are likely to flatline and/or decline before too long (presuming that a recession arrives as one would expect within the next few years), transportation sector emissions reductions are a bit more complicated. To truly achieve meaningful reductions, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle use will likely have to be greatly penalized or banned before too long.

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About the Author

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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