A fascinating, and overwhelmingly positive report, suggests the UK’s reliance on coal could soon be coming to an end, Tracey Caller reports.
Sometimes it is great to talk about the upside of British weather – namely that it is becoming a driving force in the race to eliminate the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. A recent report (produced jointly by researchers from Imperial College London, and Drax Power) states that, in the last quarter of 2016, for the very first time, more than half of our electricity was produced by low-carbon energy sources. Even more reason to celebrate is their finding that, for six whole days last year, the UK was running completely coal-free. This hasn’t happened since 1811.
How does it work?
Across the UK, 26 per cent of low-carbon energy is sourced from our own nuclear power, 10 per cent from wind, five per cent from solar energy, four per cent biomass, and one per cent from hydro sources. The remainder is imported from low-carbon sources in France.
When our weather-dependent sources, solar and wind, are producing high quantities of electricity, there is an automatic reduction in the amount of electricity produced by coal power stations. It is all part of a careful balancing act to ensure that clean energy sources drive down the demand for fossil fuels. In times of low output from wind or solar, we still have the more stable sources of hydro, biomass and nuclear to keep our reliance on fossil fuels at bay.
What does this means nationally?
This is exciting news for UK energy strategists as it shows that it is completely possible to provide electricity for the country without having to rely on fossil fuels. Currently this is periodic, but a stable reliance on renewable sources is now a lot closer.
At the moment, researchers and energy companies are exploring ways of harnessing and storing excess energy from renewable sources in battery-like forms so that this could eventually cover any dips in solar and wind power. New ideas include residential housing with solar generation built into roof tiles, and hydro-stores high up in the mountains, ready to be released to drive turbines when needed.
All of this means that UK government targets to have at least 30 per cent of electricity permanently coming from renewable sources by 2020 is now no longer a distant dream. This positive report shows that the UK is finally producing enough renewable energy to make a real difference to its carbon footprint.