Socially and politically, 2016 was a momentous year for Britain. It was also a record-breaking year for energy and the environment, but thankfully for all the right reasons. Britain’s electricity was the cleanest it had been in 60 years, as coal collapsed and renewables rose to record levels. Less than 10 per cent of British electricity – with Northern Ireland is calculated separately – was generated from coal, down from more than 40 per cent in 2012. This is the lowest share coal has ever provided in the system’s history of more than a hundred years, and the lowest absolute quantity burnt since the start of the Second World War. In fact, at 10 per cent of generation, wind farms produced more electricity, a significant milestone in Britain’s low-carbon transition. Natural gas has picked up most of the slack and posted its best year since 2010. Nuclear, solar and biomass are all also on the rise. The demise of coal means British carbon emissions from electricity generation have halved over the past four years. This is not ‘green-washing’ or creative accounting. When factoring in the emissions released abroad from producing electricity and biomass that is then imported, Britain’s electricity sector released 82 million tons of CO2. The last time annual emissions were below 100 million tons was as far back as 1955.
Independent 12th Jan 2017 read more »