Britain gets more power from sun than coal for first time in May

 
Jessica Morris
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The DECC is scaling back on subsidies for solar energy (Source: Getty)

Britain has generated more electricity from the sun than coal-fired power plants for the first time on a monthly basis, new research has shown.

Solar panels in homes and businesses across the UK produced 1.38 teratwatt hours (TWh of electricity) in May. The Times reported that was much more than coal-fired power stations, which added 0.89 TWh of electricity according to energy market consultancy EnAppSys.

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Britain passed a key milestone in May, after there were several days of coal-free electricity generation for the first time in more than 100 years, signifying a major shift taking place within the UK electricity system.

It's relying less on coal generation as falling wholesale gas prices make it less profitable. Government policy, such as the energy department's pledge to phase out coal-fired power stations by 2025, is also driving this.

Phil Hewitt, director of EnAppSys, said: "This quarter's electricity generation picture provides a clear example of how energy policy decisions can affect the electricity supply market.

"The closure of the renewable obligation to small solar farms has seen a mass pre-deadline build of solar generation and the Department for Energy and Climate Change's (DECC) negative view on coal, in combination of the capacity mechanism and carbon price floor measures, has seen coal generation opt out of the wholesale market much earlier than expected."

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The DECC is scaling back on subsidies for solar energy, arguing that they are pushing up consumers' bills.

Solar farms below 5MW no longer receive a guaranteed price from energy companies who buy from them, and developers aren't promised a set price for electricity generated from a project that's yet to be built.