Provisional 2018 statistics published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirms that 2018 was a record year for renewable electricity generation. In addition, data showed that CO2 emissions from the energy sector have fallen by 59% since the base year of 1990.
Renewable generation output increased by 11.8% in 2018 when compared to the previous year, largely brought about by an increase in capacity. Of the 44.4 GW renewable capacity in place at the end of 2018, 60% was made up of onshore wind and solar PV. The combination of more output from renewables combined with slightly lower overall electricity generation meant that renewables accounted for 33% of the 2018 generation mix.
Coal-fired generation has declined in recent years as a combination of emission limits and carbon taxes have made coal plants uneconomic to run. Support mechanisms for renewables and an increase in gas supply have also played a part. In 2018, coal accounted for 5% of power generation, compared to 33% in 2014.
The change in the generation mix has reduced the carbon intensity of grid electricity, which is reflected in the government emission factors published for carbon reporting requirements. For example, 1,000 kWh of grid electricity reported under the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme in 2014 would have equated to 0.541 tonnes CO2, whereas it will be 0.305 tonnes CO2 for the 2018/19 reporting year.
Provisional data shows that 2018 total UK greenhouse gas emissions were 44% lower than in 1990 and 3% lower than 2017. While actual emissions fell by 3%, temperature-adjusted emissions fell by 4% between 2017 and 2018. The energy supply sector saw the biggest reduction, driven by the shift away from coal and towards gas and renewables.
Energy Minister Claire Perry said, “We can be proud that we continue to lead the way in reducing emissions while growing our economy”. However, green groups highlighted the progress urgently required in the transport sector if emission targets are to be met.
While the emissions reductions can be seen as positive, stakeholder concerns are that the rate of reduction has slowed and that focus must be given to heat and transport if climate change targets are to be met. Transport is now the largest source of greenhouse gases in the UK.