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Renewable electricity overtakes coal for first time in UK

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Britain generated more of its electricity from renewable sources than from burning coal for the first time in the second quarter of 2015, as more wind and solar farms were built.

A record high of 25.3 per cent of the UK’s power came from wind, solar, biomass and hydro-electric sources in the three months to June, up from just 16.7 per cent in the same period the year before.

By contrast the share of electricity from Britain’s ageing fleet of coal-fired power stations fell to 20.5 per cent, down from 28.2 per cent a year previously.

The Government has encouraged the shift to green energy through subsidies for renewable generation and punitive measures on coal plants as it seeks to meet climate change targets.

he Department of Energy and Climate Change said the record share of renewable generation reflected not only more renewable capacity, such as the construction of big new offshore wind farms, but also “more favourable weather conditions for renewable generation”.

Wind speeds were 1.4 knots higher, leading to more output from turbines, while hydro-electric power generation was also boosted by the rainy weather in May and June.

Biomass energy, which is also classed as renewable, also increased following the conversion of part of Drax, Britain’s biggest coal-fired power plant, to burn wood instead.
The drop in coal power also reflected the closure or temporary shutdown of other coal power stations and an increase in the UK’s carbon tax which made coal plants less profitable to run.

Britain’s biggest power source over the period was gas, which provided 30.2 per cent of UK electricity, while nuclear generated 21.5 per cent of the mix.

A DECC spokesman said: “Government support has driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly and these statistics show that has successfully enabled renewables to compete with other technologies.

“Our priority is now to move towards a low-carbon economy whilst ensuring subsidies are used where they are needed most, which provides the best value for money for hardworking bill-payers.”

Maria McCaffery of wind industry body RenewableUK said: “The new statistics show that Britain is relying increasingly on dependable renewable sources to keep the country powered up, with onshore and offshore wind playing the leading roles in our clean energy mix.”

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