UK wind generated more electricity in 2016 than coal

The UK generated more electricity from wind than from coal in 2016, new analysis by fact-checking organisation Carbon Brief suggests

More electricity was generated from wind in the UK than from coal last year, according to new research by Carbon Brief. The milestone is a first for the UK and reflects a decline in the generation of coal, which contributed just 9.2 per cent of UK electricity last year while 11.5 per cent came from wind. Coal output fell to its lowest level here since 1935.

Carbon Brief also estimate that CO2 emissions from UK power generation fell by around 20 per cent in 2016, as coal was largely replaced by lower-emissions gas. The organisation’s research has been revealed ahead of estimates from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy which are expected on 30 March.

“This reduction will be enough to cut overall UK CO2 emissions by six per cent for the year, if other sectors’ emissions are unchanged,” said a spokesperson for Carbon Brief.

Contributing factors for the shift away from coal and gas also include central and local power stations opting for renewables; decreased electricity demand; carbon taxes doubling in the UK in 2015 and an increase in energy imports from Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta and Belgium, and the impact of wholesale inflations on coal and gas.

“The past 12 months have seen a year of firsts for the UK’s electricity system,” said a Carbon Brief spokesperson. “At the broadest level, the UK grid is changing as centralised power stations are joined by thousands of smaller sites, particularly renewables, as part of efforts to decarbonise electricity supplies.

“Other important factors include falling electricity demand, rising imports from continental Europe and changes in the relative price of coal and gas on wholesale energy markets. The UK’s top-up carbon tax, the carbon price floor, also doubled in April 2015.”

In March 2016, coal generation fell to zero for the first time since public electricity supply started in 1882. Wind generated more electricity than coal in April 2016, the first month this had ever happened. Analysis by Carbon Brief analysis shows that solar also generated more electricity than coal in April, again, the first month this had ever happened. Solar went on to generate more power than coal between April to September 2016.

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