Last year, the UK totted up 83 coal-free days, including a record-breaking 18-day stretch in May and June. For the year as a whole, 43 per cent of the UK’s electricity came from fossil fuels, with coal making up just two per cent – both of them record-breaking stats in their own right. The decade overall yielded some encouraging stats, too – the amount of UK electricity coming from renewable sources jumped from seven per cent in 2010 to 37 per cent in 2019. Since 1990, the country has cut its emissions by around two-fifths. And in 2019, the UK became the first major economy to target net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But a spectre is haunting the UK’s emissions targets – the spectre of nuclear retirement. According to an analysis conducted by Simon Evans at Carbon Brief, annual low-carbon electricity output from wind, solar, nuclear, hydro and biomass increased by the smallest amount in a decade, adding only a single terawatt hour to the UK’s electricity capacity – less than one per cent of the total amount. Overall low-carbon capacity growth, by comparison, grew by an annual average of 9TWh in the last decade. The Committee on Climate Change has plotted a range of pathways to meeting the UK’s 2030 climate goals; only some of these involve further nuclear plants beyond Hinkley C. Success, Chris Goodall claims, depends on the continued expansion of offshore wind. He estimates that Hinkley Point C will provide around 25TWh of the extra 162TWh of low-carbon electricity generation required by 2030. Add this to the government’s target of 40GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and this should be enough to meet our low-carbon requirements, Goodall says.
Wired 9th Jan 2020 read more »