UK 'landmark tipping point' as zero-carbon beats fossil power

National Grid says renewables and nuclear on course to generate larger share of electricity than gas and coal

The UK is on course for a “landmark tipping point” in 2019 with zero-carbon power generation outstripping generation from fossil sources, said network operator National Grid.

The switch was confirmed by analysis of power generation in the first five months of 2019, with renewables, nuclear and storage accounting for 47.9% of generation and fossil fuels 46.6%. In 2009, the split was 76%-23% the other way. National Grid doesn’t include biomass in its statistics, counting it as neither zero-carbon nor fossil.

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The network operator’s announcement follows several high-profile ‘coal-free’ generation periods for the British power sector, including a two-week continuous spell.

National Grid said the shift – “the first since the industrial revolution” – means the UK’s power system is on the right track to meeting its government’s ambitious climate and energy goals, most notably its pledge to become ‘net zero’ by 2050.

The recent net-zero announcement was generally welcomed by the renewable energy sector – although many in the industry flagged up the glaring omission of onshore wind, the cheapest source of new zero-carbon power, from government support policies.

Energy sector experts have also warned that decarbonising heat is a massive challenge that needs to be tackled beyond the power sector.

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