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Renewables provide more electricity than fossil fuels for first year ever

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Wind played the leading role in the UK’s record year for renewables (Credit: Shutterstock)
Wind played the leading role in the UK’s record year for renewables (Credit: Shutterstock)

Renewable energy sources generated more electricity than fossil fuels for the first year ever in 2020, according to a new report.

Wind played the leading role in the UK’s record year for renewables, according to the Digest of UK Energy Statistics, published today (29 July) by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

A record 43.1% of the country’s electricity came from renewable sources, up from 36.9% in 2019. This was mainly due to increased wind generation, the report says – the source provided a record 24.1%, with 13% from offshore wind and 11.1% from onshore wind. Wind generation increased by 18% compared to 2019, providing 75.7 terawatt hours, up from 64TWh in 2019. Offshore wind generated 29% more electricity in 2020 than in the year before. 

When combined with nuclear energy, low-carbon sources generated 59.3% of the country’s electricity. Fossil-fuel generation fell to a record low, providing 37.7%. Gas produced 35.7%, while coal fell to just 1.8%. There were several long periods in 2020 when there was no coal-fired power generation, including a new record for 67 days between April and June. 

“This is stellar news in the year that the UK is hosting the biggest international summit on climate change for years,” said Dan McGrail, CEO of trade association RenewableUK. “It shows that this country is playing a leading role in the global energy transition, with renewables becoming the dominant source of new power generation – outstripping fossil fuels for the first year ever, and setting new record highs across the board. 

“It’s another significant step on the road to net-zero emissions, but we need to move even faster and decarbonise the power sector by 2035. Today’s report by the Met Office warns that the UK is already undergoing disruptive climate change, so it’s vital that we take practical action at scale against the biggest threat that all of us face to our way of life.”   

A total of 312TWh of electricity was generated by all sources in 2020. Renewables generated 134.6TWh, an increase of 12.6% compared to 2019. Fossil-fuel generation fell by 15.9% to 117.8TWh. 

The pandemic reduced industrial demand for electricity in 2020 by 9.3% compared to 2019, according to the new report, but domestic consumption increased by 3.9% owing to more people working from home.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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