Q3 sees UK renewable electricity production exceed fossil fuels
A major milestone has been met in the UK’s journey to decarbonisation, as analysis from Carbon Brief indicates that Q3 saw its renewables produce more electricity than fossil fuels over a quarter for the first time.
Between July, August and September, the cumulative total of electricity produced by wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass facilities reached around 29.5TWh, exceeding the 29.1TWh produced by fossil fuels in the UK over the same period.
This comes in addition to a report from the Guardian in June 2019 that zero-carbon energy sources are on the brink of overtaking fossil fuel production over a calendar year, with the UK to have just five remaining coal-fired power plants by the end of 2019.
The Guardian added that the UK government has pledged to have entirely phased out coal-fire electricity generation by 2025, with the National Grid investing £1.3bn each year to switch the grid over to renewable energy.
While the number of coal-fire plants dwindles, the capacity of renewable energy generation is in a rampant ascendancy. Carbon Brief cited the recently completed 1,200MW wind project, Hornsea One, as a key example of this capacity growth. Offshore wind is projected to hit 20,000MW by the middle of the next decade.
Carbon Brief said that, over Q3 2019, 39% of the UK’s electricity was generated by fossil fuels, 40% by renewables, while the majority of the remainder was generated by nuclear power (19%).
In addition to overtaking fossil fuel-based electricity production over a quarter, Carbon Brief said that August and September marked the first time that the UK’s renewables outstripped fossil fuels in two consecutive months. The rate of progress is encouraging, with renewables only overtaking fossil fuels over a month for the first time in September 2018.
Carbon Brief stressed that, while the switch over to renewables is both evident and gaining pace, the UK remains distant from its 2050 goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and will struggle to meet its legally-binding international climate agreements by COP26 in November 2020.
It said that, under current legislation and policy, the UK government’s carbon production in the energy sector will drop dramatically over the next decade while that produced by transport, industry, homes, services and refineries will remain relatively constant over the same period.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.