More UK Electricity 'from wind turbines than coal for first time' in 2016

London, UK - More UK electricity was generated by wind turbines than coal-fired power plants for the first year ever in 2016, analysis shows.

Wind accounted for 11.5% of power generation in the UK across the year, as coal declined to just 9.2%, according to estimates by the Carbon Brief website which reports on climate science and energy policy.

Some 39.2 terrawatt hours (TWh) of electricity were generated from wind power in 2016, compared to 31.4 TWh from coal, the analysis concludes.

Last year also marked the first time coal's annual share of the power generation mix has fallen below 10% since electricity started being generated for the grid in the 19th century.

Even at the height of the miners' strike in the early 1980s, coal accounted for 45% of the electricity generated in the UK, Carbon Brief said.

The decline in coal power in 2016 from 22.7% of electricity generation the previous year, was matched by a switch to gas, which rose from 29.7% in 2015 to 42.7% last year.

The share of electricity from renewables held static from 2015 to 2016 at around a quarter, while wind saw its first year-on-year fall, from 12% of generation in 2015, as the construction of new wind farms was offset by lower wind speeds.

But over the past eight years, wind power has increased significantly from a 2.5% share in 2009, while solar has grown from effectively nothing to 3% of generation and bioenergy, such as biomass and energy from landfill gas, is up from 3% to 9%.

Despite fluctuations in coal and gas generation, the amount of electricity from both fossil fuels has fallen since 2009.

The switch from coal to gas last year means carbon emissions from power generation fell by around a fifth, enough to reduce the UK's overall greenhouse gases by around 5% if all other factors were equal, Carbon Brief said.

The Government has published a consultation into phasing out coal fired power stations by 2025 as part of efforts to tackle climate change.

The analysis used data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis), Elexon and Sheffield Solar.

Wind industry body RenewableUK's executive director Emma Pinchbeck said the UK's power infrastructure was seeing an "historic and exciting change".

"As old-fashioned coal is phased out, modern technologies like wind are stepping up to make sure consumers have reliable energy without the damaging health impacts of coal pollution - as well as delivering for the UK economy."

She said wind generated 32% of the UK's power on Christmas Day, while the technology was providing new manufacturing opportunities for British companies.

Globally the world was shifting away from fossil fuels and invested hundreds of billions of pounds in clean energy last year, she said.

"The Government should make a New Year's resolution to back renewables in its forthcoming industrial strategy, so that the UK can make the most of the exciting changes ahead," she said.


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