Renewables Beat Coal & Gas For The First Time

Published on June 16, 2017

National Grid figures show that renewable sources of energy such as wind farms, solar panels, hydro and the burning of renewable biomass / wood pellets have, for the first time, produced a greater energy output than coal and gas in the UK.

Record Breaking

It is believed that the blustery start to the summer may have been partly responsible for the UK’s renewable energy output breaking all previous records as the 19.3GW output of renewable energy (produced last Wednesday) was enough to meet more than 50% of the midday power demand which reached 35.4GW.

The record-breaking 19.3GW renewable power output was achieved thanks to solar panels producing around 7.6GW, wind farms generating 9.5GW, the burning of biomass generating 2 GW, and hydro electric power making up the rest.

Current levels show that around 10% of the UK’s power is now a generated by off-shore wind farms and renewable means and nuclear power together are now producing more power than gas and coal plants combined.

Mostly Low Carbon Now

Renewable industry trade body RenewableUK have confirmed National Grid figures which show that, with the inclusion of nuclear, low carbon sources now account for just over 70% of the UK’s energy generating output.

Prices Fall

Even though the news of record-breaking renewable output is much better news for the environment, it has caused quite a stir on the money markets. Last week’s renewable surge resulted in market prices falling into negative numbers. This meant that the National Grid paid big energy users to use more power in order to avoid the grid having too much supply, and to avoid paying energy companies to stop generating electricity.

The payments were made as part of the demand turn-up scheme and 6 businesses were chosen (through auction) to use the National Grid’s excess energy.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The UK is amongst the world’s wealthier countries and has an established grid, so switching more to renewables is a real option. Improvements in technology, bigger investments in renewables, and increasing support from the government have all helped to drive the costs of producing renewable energy down, and it is becoming cheaper to add a new renewable power source to the grid than a fossil fuel source.

Renewables have provided new business opportunities in the UK (solar panels and wind turbine technology), but most businesses will only really benefit financially if the cost savings of producing the power are passed along in lower energy bills.

In environmental terms, more renewables means good news in terms of lower carbon emissions but in many large countries with less well-developed grids, fossil fuel power is still needed. Also, environmental gains made by renewables here may be cancelled out by the actions of the U.S. (a large polluter) pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.