UK on track to achieve historic zero carbon milestone

The UK is set to generate more electricity from zero carbon sources than fossil fuels this year, according to the latest figures from the National Grid.

zero carbon milestone
(Credit: Pixabay)

The zero-carbon milestone, which marks the first time since the industrial revolution that renewable generation has overtaken fossil fuels, has been hailed as a tipping point in clean energy generation, made possible by a decade of investment in clean power sources.

In May – as reported by The Engineer - Britain clocked up its first coal free fortnight and generated record levels of solar power for two consecutive days, powering more than a quarter of the country’s daily electricity consumption.

John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid, said that the latest figures show that the UK is making progress towards the government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.  “The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past ten years means we can now say 2019 will be the year net zero power beats fossil fuel fired generation for the first time. Having reached this landmark tipping point, the question is what are we doing today to get to net zero as quickly as possible."

Whilst increasing investment in renewable energy sources is playing a major role, another of the keys to achieving this ambitious target will, he said, be National Grid’s significant investment in interconnector projects, which will import clean energy to the UK via underwater power cables.

"The interconnectors that connect our electricity grid into Norway’s hydro power are part of this story, as is having the know-how to bring renewable generation onstream to complement conventional sources of generating power," he said. "This will help accelerate our progress towards delivering cleaner, greener energy for Britain’s homes, our travel and our work as quickly as possible.”

National Grid claims that by 2025, interconnectors will provide enough energy to power eight million homes via zero carbon sources. This network of European sub-sea, clean energy super-highways will help to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions from the power sector by approximately 17 per cent (six million tonnes) by 2030.

A key project here is the North Sea Link, which will plug British homes into Norway’s biggest hydro-dam at the Blasjo reservoir in Kvilldal, and will enable both countries to share zero carbon electricty.

The latest announcement follows news in May 2019 that the UK had enjoyed its first week of coal-free electricity since 1882. This builds on a number of significant milestones in recent years. In May 2016, solar power produced more electricity than coal for the first time, producing 1.33TWh compared to 0.9TWh from coal, whilst more recently (21 April 2017) the UK had its first coal-free generation day since Victorian times.