Quantcast

Clean Power Overtaking Fossil Fuels in Britain in 2019

Renewable Energy
The Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm in the Irish Sea in Wallasey, England. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

The birthplace of coal power is changing its ways. For the first time since the industrial revolution, the United Kingdom will generate more electricity from clean energy sources like wind, solar and nuclear power rather than from fossil fuel plants, the country's National Grid said Friday, as the BBC reported.


The milestone has been passed through the end of May this year. National Grid said that clean energy had slightly outpaced fossil fuels, 48 percent to 47 percent for coal and gas. The other five percent is chalked up to biomass burning, which has the potential to be carbon-neutral. The transformation reflects the growing unpopularity of coal energy, as the public increases its appetite for wind and solar power, according to the BBC.

The UK has a long and storied history with coal, which was home to the world's first coal-fueled power plant in the 1880s. Coal was the island nation's dominant electricity source for the next century, which led to economic leaps, but also dangerous air quality.

In a sign of the times, British politicians shunned coal and made the UK the first G7 country to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050. That target compels Britain to invest heavily in low-carbon power and to make drastic reductions in fossil fuel use, according to Reuters.

"The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past 10 years means we can now say 2019 will be the year zero-carbon power beats fossil fuel fired generation for the first time," said John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid, as Reuters reported.

Coal's decline has been precipitous. According to data from National Grid, coal generation in the UK has plummeted from 30 percent to 3 percent, while most fossil fuel generated power comes from natural gas. On the flip side of coal, wind power has had a meteoric rise from 1 percent to 19 percent of energy power, as the BBC reported.

Along the way, several milestones have been reached. In May, Britain set its own modern day record for record levels of solar power for two days and for two weeks where it was completely coal-free. The government plans to phase out the last of its coal-fired plants by 2025.

"As more and more renewables come onto the system, we're seeing things progress at an astonishing rate," said Fintan Slye, director of the National Grid Electricity System Operator, to the BBC. "2018 was our greenest year to date, and so far, 2019 looks like it has the potential to beat it."

Britain's coastlines, in particular, have been ideal for generating clean wind energy. England's northwest coast houses the world's largest offshore wind farm, the Walney Extension, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

To increase its supply of clean energy power, Britain will rely on interconnected systems with its neighbors. An interconnector with France will help Britain tap into France's nuclear power supply and a planned interconnector with Norway will enable Britain to access Norway's hydropower. It will also allow Britain to export wind power, according to Reuters.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

We need our government to do everything it can to stop PFAS contamination and exposure from wreaking havoc in communities across the country. LuAnn Hun / Unsplash

By Genna Reed

The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.

This decision is based on three criteria:

  1. PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
  2. PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
  3. regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
Read More
Charging EVs in Stockholm: But where does a dead battery go? Ranjithsiji / Wikimedia Commons

By Kieran Cooke

Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.

Read More
Sponsored
U.S. Secretary of the Treasure Steven Mnuchin arrives for a welcome dinner at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 22, 2020 during the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting. FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP via Getty Images

Finance ministers from the 20 largest economies agreed to add a scant mention of the climate crisis in its final communiqué in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but they stopped short of calling it a major economic risk, as Reuters reported. It was the first time the G20 has mentioned the climate crisis in its final communiqué since Donald Trump became president in 2017.

Read More
Aerial view of Parque da Cachoeira, which suffered the January 2019 dam collapse, in Brumadinho, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil — one of the country's worst industrial accidents that left 270 people dead. Millions of tons of toxic mining waste engulfed houses, farms and waterways, devastating the mineral-rich region. DOUGLAS MAGNO / AFP / Getty Images

By Christopher Sergeant, Julian D. Olden

Scars from large mining operations are permanently etched across the landscapes of the world. The environmental damage and human health hazards that these activities create may be both severe and irreversible.

Read More
Participants of the climate demonstration Fridays for Future walk through Hamburg, Germany on Feb. 21, 2020. Axel Heimken / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

U.S.-based youth climate activists on Friday drew attention to the climate protest in Hamburg, Germany, where organizers said roughly 60,000 people took part, and hoped that Americans took inspiration from their European counterparts.

Read More