The United Kingdom recently marked its greatest year ever for the use of clean energy, breaking 13 national renewable energy records in the process. According to a report by the National Grid, the UK generated more power from renewable sources than fossil fuels for the first time throughout the month of June. Great Britain also achieved its first full 24 hours of electric power without burning coal in April. These and other achievements are the result of years of British investment in and policy to promote renewable energy.
Since 2012, the United Kingdom has cut carbon emissions from its electric power sector in half. Great Britain now stands as the fourth cleanest power system in Europe and seventh in the world. In addition to its already accomplished goals, the British government aims to completely phase out unabated coal, or coal that is burnt without accompanying carbon capture, by 2025. Though once the powerhouse of the British electrical grid, coal is quickly receding from its former prominence. Great Britain’s wind farms generated more power than its coal plants on over 75 percent of the days in 2017, with renewable sources generating more than coal on over 90 percent of 2017.
While coal is on its way out, natural gas is still booming. There were only two days in 2017 in which wind power generation exceeded that of gas, while renewable power generation overall only beat that of fossil fuels on 23 days in 2017. “The government has focused on reducing coal use which now supplies less than 7 percent of our electricity,” said Dr Andrew Crossland, energy expert at MyGridGB and the Durham Energy Institute, according to the BBC. “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.” While outside activists and experts continue to push the United Kingdom to do more, the British government is taking it in stride. “The UK is a world leader in clean growth,” said a spokesman for the UK Energy Department, who also stated that the UK is reducing emissions faster than any other G7 country.