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Green energy generates more electricity than fossil fuels for first time in the UK

Green energy in the UK, which includes wind farms, solar, biomass, and hydro plants, generated more electricity than coal, oil, and gas in the third quarter of 2019, according to a new report by Carbon Brief.

Carbon Brief says:

During the three months of July, August, and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows.

This is the first-ever quarter where renewables outpaced fossil fuels since the UK’s first public electricity generating station opened in 1882. It is another symbolic milestone in the stunning transformation of the UK’s electricity system over the past decade.

Green energy in the UK has more than quadrupled since 2010, and fossil-fuel generation of electricity has halved, from 288TWh to 142TWh in the last 12-month period.

Gas is now responsible for the majority of that fossil-fuel output. The BBC reported on October 7 that four new gas-fired turbines at Drax power station near Selby in North Yorkshire were approved by the British government, despite a ruling from its own Planning Inspectorate that said more gas would contribute to climate change, despite replacing coal. Drax produces 7% of the UK’s electricity.

However, Carbon Brief asserts that “it is unlikely that all of the planned new gas capacity will get built.”

Further, it should be noted that biomass is not zero carbon.

As of the third quarter, the approximate breakdown of sources of UK electricity is as follows, from highest to lowest:

  • Gas: 38%
  • Wind: 20%
  • Nuclear: 19%
  • Biomass: 12%
  • Solar: 6%
  • Coal and oil: 1%

The opening of new offshore wind farms has been the main reason for this surge in UK green energy. Carbon Brief continues:

In total, government contracts for offshore wind will take capacity from nearly 8,500 MW today to around 20,000 MW by the mid-2020s. The government and industry are jointly aiming for at least 30,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, with two further contract auctions already expected.

Carbon Brief’s analysis was verified against published Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy figures.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.