In 2020, wind turbines generated almost a quarter of electricity, and in the EU renewable energy was observed to outperform fossil fuels. For the first time in 2020, the UK’s renewable electricity outperformed its fossil fuel generation and stayed as the largest source of electricity, according to an independent climate and energy think tank.
The think tank behind the report, Ember focuses on accelerating the global electricity transition. Ember highlighted that renewable energy generated by sunlight, wind, water, and wood made up 42% of the UK’s electricity in 2020 compared with 41% generated from coal and gas plants together.
Ember underscored in its report that renewable energy had also outpaced fossil fuels across the EU for the first time, following a collapse in the use of coal in 2020. It was highlighted that almost a quarter of the UK’s electricity was produced by wind turbines in 2020. The generated electricity was nearly double the share of wind power in 2015 and up from a fifth of the UK’s electricity in 2019.
In contrast, electricity from gas-fired power plants fell to a five-year low of 37% of the UK’s electricity, and coal power plants made up around 2% of the electricity mix.
Charles Moore, the programme leader at Ember stated that with Boris’s 40GW 2030 offshore wind target, gas generation was set for further rapid declines over the 2020s. He added that it was clear that the UK had started its journey towards gas power phase-out in 2035 as recommended by the Climate Change Committee.
The report also highlighted that solar and hydropower generated 4% and 2% of the UK’s electricity respectively in 2020, which was unchanged in comparison to 2019. Plus, bioenergy, which is power generated by burning wood pellets, grew slightly to make up 12% of the UK’s electricity, raising concerns over the use of an energy source.
Ember predicted that renewable electricity will maintain its lead in the UK’s electricity system in the years to come, even after normal demand levels return, as new wind and solar farms are built across the country.
Renewable energy, which is the most economical source of electricity in the UK, was able to hold on to a larger share of the electricity mix due to the electricity system operator leaving gas plants idle. Plus, it called on nuclear reactors to reduce their output and stop the grid from being overwhelmed with more electricity than the UK required.
The UK recorded numerous green energy records in 2020, which include the highest recorded output for wind during Storm Bella on Boxing Day, and a new record for solar power in April.