During 2019, almost half of the electricity used in the UK was produced by a zero-carbon method. This included solar, wind and nuclear power which generated 48.5% of all electricity, in contrast fossil fuels produced 43%.
This data was released by the national grid at the beginning of this year. The data also showed that the remaining 8.5% of electricity consumed was produced from biomass. The calculations account for domestically generated electricity and the electricity that is imported from other nations through interconnectors.
The data from the national grid shows that 2019 is the first year on record where zero carbon production methods outweighed that of fossil fuels. Many other records were also set and broke again during 2019 such as Britain going the longest it has ever gone without coal generation which was broke three times and most impressively the United Kingdom went nearly two weeks without using coal powered generation.
During May, there were a total of around 600 hours of electricity produced without using coal power.
The chief executive of the national grid, John Pettigrew, has stated how this data is a historic moment and that it is an opportunity to reflect on everything that has been achieved in trying to use more renewable energy.
Until last year, the United Kingdom had been targeting a 80% decrease in emissions from 1990 levels by the year 2050. However, the UK now has a legally binding contract to make sure they reach zero net emissions by the year 2050.
Back in 19990, the calculations from the national grid worked out that fossil fuels made up over 75% (75.5%) of all electricity used in Britain and less than 25% (24.4%) of electricity was being produced from renewable sources. In addition to this, biomass was not even being used to generate any electricity.
Since the 1990s a combination of varying factors has significantly affected the numbers. Policy interventions, increased investment and improved technology are the three main factors which have changed the countries energy mix. These factors alongside improved knowledge and information on climate change have led to vast improvements in the renewable energy sectors generation of electricity.
Further into the future, the United Kingdom plans to phase out all use of coal generation by 2025 however critics believe this may not be possible. With many nuclear power plants looking like they will be shutting down and currently no strong policy to increase onshore wind power or large-scale energy storage battery plants there are concerns that it will be hard to maintain reliable electricity across the UK and therefore coal power plants may still be in use beyond 2025.
However, a lot of businesses are now investing large sums into renewable zero carbon energy plants and increasing infrastructure within the sector. The National Grid alone has put aside nearly £1 billion which will be used for the transition to have a fully renewable energy sector. A large percentage of the £1 billion is to be used by the electricity system operator so that it can run a net zero carbon electricity system by 2025 and reduce the carbon emitted through the gas transmission network. Scottish power, SSE and Orsted do all also have plans to increase their zero-carbon energy production throughout the UK.
For Britain to reach its net zero target, the committee on climate change believe that the electricity produced domestically must quadruple from the 2017 to baseline by the year 2050. Increased energy storage and improved carbon capture and storage alongside the increase in net zero energy output will also help the UK reach their target.