Quantcast

Britain Achieves the 'Unthinkable' as Renewables Leapfrog Fossil Fuel Capacity

Renewable Energy
The Walney offshore windfarm. David Dixon / CC BY-SA 2.0

Britain's electricity grid hit a "major milestone," as its total renewable electricity capacity leapfrogged fossil fuels for the first time, experts revealed Tuesday.

The total available capacity from wind, solar, biomass, hydro and other renewables reached a record 42 gigawatts between July and September, overtaking the 40.6 gigawatts available from fossil fuels, according to a report commissioned by Drax's Electric Insights and produced by Imperial College London researchers.


Such an achievement "would have been unthinkable just a few years ago," Iain Staffell of Imperial College London wrote about the new findings.

Over the past five years, the capacity from renewables has tripled while a third of fossil fuel generating capacity has retired, the Electric Insights report said.

Here are some other key findings of the report:

  • Wind farms provide the biggest share of renewable capacity on the system, with more than 20 gigawatts available.
  • Solar comes in second providing more than 13 gigawatts.
  • Biomass is third, with 3.2 gigawatts.

The rollout of renewables has also eclipsed the so-called "dash for gas" in the 1990s, Staffell noted. An average of 3.8 gigawatts of new renewable capacity was added in Britain each year, compared to 2.4 gigawatts of natural gas at its peak.

"Britain's power system is slowly but surely walking away from fossil fuels, and this quarter saw a major milestone on the journey," Staffell wrote.

The UK has a target of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent compared with 1990 levels by 2050. Coal, which was once king in Britain, will be phased out by 2025 under government plans.

"The fall in fossil capacity has come mostly from coal plants retiring. A quarter of the country's coal capacity has retired in the last year, leaving just six generators in the country," Staffell explained.

Meanwhile, investment in renewable energy has ramped up in recent years, including the recent opening of the 659-megawatt Walney Extension—the world's largest offshore wind farm—off the coast of Cumbria, England.

"However," Staffell noted, "unabated gas capacity will remain for the next few decades, and may soon increase as a new gas power stations are being developed in Keadby, Lincolnshire and on the site of the recently-closed Eggborough coal power station in Yorkshire. Similarly, small gas and diesel reciprocating engines are appearing throughout the country, as a cheap (but polluting) supplier of peak capacity and balancing services."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

MStudioImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Backpacking is an exciting way to explore the wilderness or travel to foreign countries on a budget.

Read More Show Less
Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less