Energy is critical to life. However, we must work to find
solution to source sustainable energy which compliments the UK’s emission targets. This article discusses six interesting facts concerning the UK’s diversified energy
supply system and the ways it is shifting towards decarbonised alternatives.
1. In 2015, UK government announced plans to close unabated coal-fired
power plants by 2025.
A coal-fired power plant in Minnesota, US. Image: Tony Webster/Flickr
In recent years, energy generation
from coal has dropped significantly. In March 2018, Eggborough power station, North Yorkshire, closed, leaving only seven coal power plants operational in the UK. In May this
year, Britain set a record by going one week without coal power. This was the
first time since 1882!
2. Over 40% of the UK’s electricity supply comes from gas.
A natural gas search oil rig. Image: Pixabay
While it may
be a fossil fuel, natural gas releases less carbon dioxide emissions compared
to that of coal and oil upon combustion. However, without mechanisms in place
to capture and store said carbon dioxide it is still a carbon intensive energy
3. Nuclear power accounts for approximately 8% of UK energy supply.
generation is considered a low-carbon process. In 2025, Hinkley Point C nuclear
power-plant is scheduled to open in Somerset. With an electricity generation
capacity of 3.2GW, it is considerably bigger than a typical power-plant.
In 2018, the
total installed capacity of UK renewables increased by 9.7% from the previous
year. Out of this, wind power, solar power and plant biomass accounted for
4. The Irish Sea is home to the world’s largest
wind farm, Walney Extension.
The Walney offshore wind farm. Image: Wikimedia Commons
to this, the UK has the third highest total installed wind capacity across
Europe. The World Energy Council define an ‘ideal’ wind farm as one which experiences
wind speed of over 6.9 metres per second at a height of 80m above ground.
As can be seen in the image below, at 100m, the UK is well suited for wind
5. Solar power accounted for 29.5% of total renewable electricity capacity
This was an
increase of 12% from the previous year (2017) and the highest amount to date! Such
growth in solar power can be attributed to considerable technology cost
reductions and greater average sunlight hours, which increased by up to 0.6
hours per day in 2018.
Currently, the intermittent
availability of both solar and wind energy means that fossil fuel reserves are
required to balance supply and demand as they can run continuously and are
easier to control.
2018, total UK electricity generation from bioenergy accounted for
approximately 32% of all renewable generation.
A biofuel plant in Germany.
This was the
largest share of renewable generation per source and increased by 12% from the
previous year. As a result of Lynemouth power station, Northumberland, and another unit at Drax, Yorkshire, being converted from fossil fuels to biomass, there was a large increase in
plant biomass capacity from 2017.