2017 was a milestone for clean electricity in the UK

Recent research has found that the UK’s electricity sector had its cleanest year ever in 2017 with 13 separate records being broken.

The figures, using official National Grid statistics, included the first time since 1882 that Britain went without using any coal power. Low-carbon sources, including wind, nuclear and solar, also beat gas and coal for the first time.

Britain has been rapidly reducing the carbon intensity of its power sector for a number of years. Separate research by Imperial College London in November showed that the country had decreased its emissions by 47% from 2012-2016, and is now ranked 7th in the world for carbon intensity. Coal generation fell by 80% during these years, helped by the closure of several old fossil fuel plants.

Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the news on Twitter

Figures from MyGridGB, working with the Durham Energy Institute, also showed wind farms in Britain beat coal-fired generation on more than three quarters of the days up to December.

Dr Andrew Crossland from MyGridGB told the BBC: "The government has focused on reducing coal use which now supplies less than 7% of our electricity.

"However, if we continue to use gas at the rate that we do, then Britain will miss carbon targets and be dangerously exposed to supply and price risks in the international gas markets".

Dr. Iain Staffell of Imperial College London added: “Several real milestones were reached by renewable electricity throughout 2017 – we set a new record in March for renewable generation, which was then broken again in June.

“It helped that wind speeds were relatively high during the year, so wind farm output was up by around one third compared to last year. Also, electricity demand was a little lower, meaning that renewable output formed a bigger part of the mix.”

In addition, Christmas Day was also a record for the lowest level of carbon dioxide emissions, according to figures provided by the Drax power company.

News published on Climate Action Programme
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