Greenest year ever for UK
2017 was the very first year since the advent of industrialisation that the UK generated more than half of its total energy from low carbon sources. The big winner was wind power which supplied twice as much power as coal, and the big loser was coal which plummeted to new lows. In fact, the UK had its first totally coal free day since 1882, the year the first residential coal power plant was switched on.
Record levels of wind and solar power generation were recorded over the year, as fossil fuels supplied only 47.5% of the UK’s total energy demand over the year – this is a reduction of almost 28% since 2010.
As renewable energy costs continue to decrease, it is clear that the current government’s Luddite plans to slash subsidies may not make much of a difference to the march of renewable power. The technology is maturing at such a pace, and the commensurate amount of investment is following it, that the idea of subsidising renewable energy may soon belong to the past. Likewise, it is to be hoped that the policy of subsidising fossil fuel energy producers will soon be seen for the folly it is and ended.
As well as the ongoing subsidies to fossil fuel energy suppliers, it is also worth noting that the “low carbon” sector includes nuclear energy. Whilst it may be a low carbon option, that does not mean that nuclear power is not incredibly polluting and bad for the environment. The fact that the Irish Sea is the most nuclear sea in the world thanks to nuclear waste water is a damning testament to the long term effects of nuclear energy. In addition, the lack of a plan to store excess waste and the still-unknown consequences of living near one of the power stations do not inspire confidence that this should be our long term option.
Likewise, the cost of renewable energy compared to the cost of brand new nuclear power stations – Hinckley Point C being the most egregious offender in this regard – mean that nuclear surely is not our best option. With wind and solar power already half the price of the projected cost of Hinckley Point C energy per kWh, the shelf life of new nuclear options is surely limited. It makes no sense at all to do anything other than produce and install renewable solutions on a mass scale as quickly as possible.
The overall headline statistics are impressive and are surely the latest evidence of a long term trend away from fossil fuels. If the UK can increase its low carbon energy supply by another 28% in the next 7 years – without increasing its reliance on polluting and costly nuclear energy – then that would be a serious, world-leading achievement.