Environment

Renewables overtake coal in the UK energy mix for the first time

Renewables overtake coal in th...
Renewable energy sources (combined solar, wind and biofuel) have overtaken coal, the most polluting energy source, in the UK for the first time
Renewable energy sources (combined solar, wind and biofuel) have overtaken coal, the most polluting energy source, in the UK for the first time
View 3 Images
UK energy generation breakdown for Q2 2014 and Q2 2015
1/3
UK energy generation breakdown for Q2 2014 and Q2 2015
Proportion of energy generation from renewable sources, 2012-2015
2/3
Proportion of energy generation from renewable sources, 2012-2015
Renewable energy sources (combined solar, wind and biofuel) have overtaken coal, the most polluting energy source, in the UK for the first time
3/3
Renewable energy sources (combined solar, wind and biofuel) have overtaken coal, the most polluting energy source, in the UK for the first time
View gallery - 3 images

Thanks to an increase in solar panels and wind turbines, as well as a particularly sunny and windy quarter, renewable energy has supplied a record 25 percent of the UK’s energy mix in Q2 2015, leapfrogging coal for the first time to come into second place behind gas fired electricity. It’s nearly a 10 percent increase on the same period last year.

UK energy generation breakdown for Q2 2014 and Q2 2015
UK energy generation breakdown for Q2 2014 and Q2 2015

Total renewable energy generation rose by 51.4 percent compared to Q2 2014, with solar jumping by 115 percent, wind rising 65.2 percent thanks to expanded offshore installations, and bioenergy improving by 26.2 percent, largely due to one unit at Drax power station switching from coal to woodchip burning. Since 2012, the share of renewable energy has been rising fairly consistently.

Proportion of energy generation from renewable sources, 2012-2015
Proportion of energy generation from renewable sources, 2012-2015

This strong result comes in the middle of a difficult year for renewables, with David Cameron’s conservative government totally ending subsidies for new on-shore wind farms, and slashing solar power support as well.

Still, the situation is not looking strong for coal producers, with Goldman Sachs releasing a research paper suggesting we may already have passed "peak coal." According to the paper, Goldman believes demand for coal peaked in 2013 and will only decline in the coming years. Its projected long-term price for coal is now US$50 per tonne, down from US$65 per tonne in previous projections.

Source: UK Energy Statistics, Q2 2015

View gallery - 3 images
9 comments
Freyr Gunnar
Are we talking primary energy, or electricity generation specifically?
How many cars and trucks run on electricity in the UK?
Brendan Dunphy
Great news, though the biomass element is controversial.
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
Obviously, they're talking about electricity generation. Have a closer look at the pie charts and graph.
Catweazle
Does this take into account the amount of fossil fuel burned by the coal plant that is kept hot and spinning so it can rapidly replace the output of the "unreliables" when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing?
No? I didn't think so.
Twaddle, in other words.
Deltauro555
Well done. UK has shown actual results.
Again this means jobs in Renewables and hopefully efficient manufacturing of parts and assembly atleast.
Uk can also excel in the devices to balance energy baseload supply utilizing energy from the variable resource mix. This is an area of high technology.
svengali49
While the figures may flatter to deceive, the fact is that this is good news and can only improve especially if we can start harnessing solar power from different surfaces like windows, or even capture the heat generated in glass windows from the sun to warm houses better. If they can do this in a country with rather dull sunlight and less of it than Australia, imagine what we can do if we get our a**es into gear and make house run on a combo of solar and wind power, heat pumps etc. We can also still improve a lot with better use of insulation and from passive use of wind-flows and drafting hot and cold air into and out of houses better. Ditto with factories... thousands of factories line the M4 Freeway in western Sydney and their huge roofs sit there doing nothing, when these companies could be self reliant for lighting, heating etc with the newer types of solar energy, skylights and simply more efficient air-flows etc. People and companies should not be paid for this type of energy, but they should be given tax breaks once they become totally independent of the energy grid and/or be paid the going rate of electricity (less about 10%) of commercial energy rates. Some of these companies may even want to team up with other factories/housing in their own districts to create low energy hubs where they sell the power to each other rather than to a power company, if this is feasible with modern software systems to track and maintain...
witipete
There is something suspect about the data. Nuclear and gas remain steady but coal drops 'out' Power consumption does not work that way.
Slowburn
So we deforest the world again for industrial fuel.
Slowburn
@ witipete Reread the article. A coal plant converted to deforestation.