British fossil fuel reliance drops 30% in less than a decade

2019-01-23T15:35:23+00:00January 2019|

Britain has achieved something truly remarkable in the last decade – a 30% shift away from electricity generation using fossil fuels, according to Business Green.

Just nine years ago, we generated 75% of our electricity using natural gas and coal. According to official figures, by 2018 this level dropped to just under 45%.

How was this reduction in fossil fuel reliance achieved? Some of the switch can be explained through improved efficiency of electrical appliances, which reduces demand for power. However, looking closely at the mix of electricity generation shows renewables are increasingly taking centre-stage.

Britain’s power generation went coal-free for a record 1,898 hours in 2018, up from only 200 hours in 2016. This rapid change marks a switch from coal power, which is dropping fast as coal stations are decommissioned. For three days in a row during 2018, no coal power at all was used.

Around 5% of the total energy mix is now from coal, around the same level as is generated from solar and hydro combined. Wind power makes up 17% of the total; when combined, wind and solar provide more electricity than nuclear sources.

However, when a cold snap strikes, dirtier fuels often step in to make up the shortfall. During the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ in February 2018, the gas system was under significant stress to meet growing demand and coal generation was stepped up in response. This will not be an option from 2025, when all coal generation is due to be phased out.

Although the rise in renewable electricity generation is news to be welcomed, there are still considerable challenges ahead. Even if a further 30% drop in fossil fuel reliance could be achieved in the next decade, this would still mean only one sixth of Britain’s power mix would be from renewable sources. New renewable generation would have to replace around 100 terawatt hours each year.

We also face the prospect of a growth in demand for electricity as more people switch to electric cars and heating systems. The growth in electric cars alone could increase demand for electricity by around one quarter (based on the 254bn miles in UK car and taxi journeys in 2017, driven by vehicles as efficient as the latest Hyundai or Tesla).

There’s no doubt that the future lies in green electricity generation. Why not get involved by exploring Zestec’s energy solutions for businesses? As well as helping the environment, cutting your energy overheads makes sound business sense. Contact the team today on 01202 862760 or by emailing