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A new report has revealed that the UK saw more energy being generated by renewables than by fossil fuels in the third quarter of the year. This is a landmark event, the country has produced the majority of its energy from non-renewable sources since the opening of its first coal power plant in 1882.
The inauguration of new offshore wind farms has been identified as one of the main factors that have helped the UK push past this threshold, along with the steadily reducing cost of renewable energy.
A Significant Step Towards Reducing Carbon Emissions
The Carbon Brief announced in October that wind farms, solar panels, biomass and hydropower in the UK produced 29.5 terawatt-hours of energy between the months of July and September of this year. Fossil fuel sources generated 29.1 terawatt-hours of energy over this period, just slightly less, but having renewables overtake fossil fuels is a significant advancement regardless of the figures. It marks an important step towards the UK’s goal of cutting its CO2 emissions, as well as its target of cutting all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Progression Towards Renewables
The country has slowly been building up towards a switch from non-renewable to renewable energy sources. 2017 marked the first time since the country’s industrial revolution that it went a day without using coal power. This year, there was a two week period in May where the country managed to attain all its power without the need for coal. Currently, just 2% of the country’s power is generated by its coal plants, all of which are planned to be closed down entirely by 2025. While this reduction in reliance on coal has partly been fueled by a switch to an alternative fossil fuel, natural gas, the growing favor to use renewable energy is also attributed as a cause of coal’s demise.
While we wait for figures for the whole year, it is not expected that renewables will have generated more energy than fossil fuels over this entire period, just the final months, experts predict that it is only a matter of time before the next landmark is achieved and reports state that renewables have been the main source of energy constantly over the year. This may happen in 2020, or it may take a little longer, but it is hoped that the change will happen sooner rather than later.
More Capacity and Lower Costs
2019 saw the opening of new offshore wind farms which have significantly increased the capacity of renewable energy generation. The Hornsea One project, which now takes the title of the world’s largest wind farm, was completed in October with a huge 1,2000 megawatt (MW) capacity.
There are plans to open Hornsea two and three in the coming years, further adding capacity. The 588MW Beatrice offshore wind farm also opened this year, being completed before quarter three. Added together, these projects have accumulated 2,100 of offshore capacity, bringing total capacity to almost 8,500MW. Over the next five years or so the government plan to significantly add to this, aiming to reach a 20,000MW by the mid-2020s.
Another major factor contributing to the growth of renewable energy in the UK is the falling costs of wind and solar power technologies. Due to advancements in technologies and falling costs of materials, it has become cheaper to produce wind and solar energy, which was once considered expensive. Now, these renewable sources are predicted to be consistently cheaper than fossil fuel energies.
A Milestone Towards Combating Climate Change
This shift from fossil fuels to renewables represents a milestone towards achieving targets set to combat climate change. The UK has already successfully cut 40% of its emissions since 1990, and with its offshore wind farm plan, it is hopeful that it will continue to steadily cut emissions.