The latest government figures show that the renewables share of UK electricity generation was at a record of 31.7% in Q2 2018. Overall, more than half the generation was met from low-carbon sources. That is, renewables plus nuclear generation.
The output from renewables was 1.1% higher than in the same quarter of the previous year, which was attributed to an increase in both capacity and daily sun hours. Offshore wind output was higher year-on-year but was 40% lower than Q1 2018, which had seen higher wind speeds. Coal’s share of the generation mix was at a record low of 1.6% in Q2, while gas was the dominant fuel with a 42% share.
Growth in low-carbon generation is the greatest contributor to the reductions achieved in UK emissions, which stood at 43% below 1990 levels in 2017. This means that the UK is on course to meet its third carbon budget of a 37% reduction by 2020. However, if we are to meet future budgets, in the build-up to an 80% reduction target in 2050, action will also need to be taken in the sectors of transport, industry, buildings, and agriculture. The chart below, from the Committee on Climate Change, depicts the change in emissions from different sectors since 2012. While reductions have been made in the power and industrial sectors, transport has become the largest emitting sector and accounted for 28% of UK Greenhouse Gases in 2017.
While there are a number of approaches to reducing emissions in heat and transport, one method is to increase the use of electricity in both these areas, which would in turn be reliant on the power sector reducing its carbon intensity further.
The Committee on Climate Change published its 2018 progress report over the summer, which included four key actions that it believes will put the UK on track to meet emission targets. One of these action points is the need to act now to keep long-term options open. The support of new low- carbon technologies now, such as Carbon Capture & Storage and floating offshore wind will make them more viable in the future when we face more stringent carbon targets.