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Renewables overtook fossil fuels in UK – for a whole quarter

Electricity generated from renewable sources exceeded that from fossil fuels for the third quarter of 2019, according to analysis by the Carbon Brief website. During the three months of July, August and September, renewables generated an estimated 29.5 TWh, compared with 29.1 TWh from fossil fuels. 

Renewables have been breaking short-term records for quite some time now, but this is the first-ever quarter where renewables outpaced fossil fuels since the UK’s first public electricity generating station was opened in 1882. 

And, while this adds up to a ‘stunning’ transformation of the electricity system in the last decade, a lack of progress in other parts of the economy means the UK remains off track to meet its upcoming and legally binding carbon reduction targets, let alone the recently adopted goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, adds Carbon Brief

At the start of this decade in 2010, the 288 TWh of electricity generated from fossil fuels accounted for around three-quarters of the UK total. It was also more than ten times as much electricity as the 26 TWh that came from renewables. 

Since then, electricity generation from renewable sources has more than quadrupled – and overall demand has fallen – leaving fossil fuels with a shrinking share of the total. Electricity generation from fossil fuels has halved since 2010, down to 142 TWh in the most recent 12-month period. Gas now contributes the vast majority of that shrinking total, as coal plants close down ahead of a planned phaseout in 2025, says Carbon Brief

In the third quarter of 2019, some 38% of UK electricity generation was from gas, with a further 1% from coal and oil combined. Another 40% came from renewables, including 20% from wind, 12% from biomass and 6% from solar. Nuclear contributed most of the remainder, generating 19% of the total. 

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