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  • UK Zero Carbon Overtakes Fossil Fuels

UK Zero Carbon Overtakes Fossil Fuels

Jul 15 2019 Read 1137 Times

In the first five months of this year, Britain generated more energy from zero-carbon sources than from fossil fuels, according to figures provided by the National Grid. Renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, wave and nuclear power outstripped coal, oil and gas for the very first time since the Industrial Revolution. The landmark could prove to be a significant one.

With climate change a persistent and ever-worsening worry for concerned citizens and governments all across the globe, it’s imperative that transitions such as these take place urgently. Given Britain’s prominent status on the world stage, the news that fossil fuels may finally be on the wane in a country which has relied so heavily upon them for the last 200 years is highly encouraging.

The breakdown

A mere decade ago, the outlook was not positive for the sustainability of the UK energy sector. The polluting methods of fossil fuel combustion yielded over 75% of the country’s power, with coal in particular contributing almost a third (30%). By contrast, wind power was responsible for a trifling 1.3% of the energy used in homes and businesses around the country.

However, the long list of negative consequences of coal combustion, including harmful emissions, contaminated airways and even extreme rainfall events, have meant that this fuel source that once formed the backbone of British energy has fallen sharply out of favour. Today, it contributes just 3% of the overall energy picture, while wind has enjoyed a concurrent upturn in fortunes, responsible for 19% of our energy needs today.

A further 18% is generated from nuclear sources, while over 10% more is provided through wave, hydro and solar means. While gas is still the biggest single contributing source with 41% of the overall total, fossil fuels as a whole fell behind between January and May with 46.7% to renewables’ 47.9%.

Planning for the future

While a mere percentile might not sound like much in terms of the margin clean energy now commands over fossil fuels, the fact that it holds one at all is remarkable. John Pettigrew, chief executive of the National Grid, said the news was “tremendously exciting because it's such a tipping point.” The implication is that the gap will only widen as the years progress.

The government has signalled its intention to encourage that to happen by targeting the status of a “net-zero economy” by 2050. To achieve that lofty aim, Britain must look to alleviate pollution and decrease emissions through environmentally-friendly forms of road transportation. Electric vehicles (EVs) are already fast becoming an incredibly popular option in the country, with the number of EV charging points surpassing the number of traditional petrol stations earlier this year.

Pettigrew is keen to integrate these two key technologies to boost the effectiveness of both. He suggests that the batteries inside EVs could be used to store power generated by hydro, solar and wind power plants, then linked up to the grid via charging points for use at peak energy consumptions times. Joined up thinking like this is the only way Britain and indeed the world will be able to meet its ambitious but achievable environmental goals.

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