In a landmark year for renewable energy, wind power overtook coal in the UK for the first time

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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Carbon emissions are expected to drop six per cent in the UK as coal takes a back seat to wind power (Source: Getty)

For the first time ever, the UK generated more electricity from wind than coal in a calendar year, which led carbon emissions from the sector to drop 20 per cent.

Wind generated 11.5 per cent of the UK's electricity last year, whereas coal contributed just 9.2 per cent, down 59 per cent from the year before, an analysis by the Carbon Brief found.

This was coal's lowest output level since 1935.

Coal has been under pressure by multiple factors. Thousands of new smaller renewable power stations have joined the market to decarbonise electricity supplies, electricity demand is falling, imports from continental Europe are rising and the relative price of coal and gas is shifting on wholesale energy markets.

Not to mention, in April 2015 the UK's top-up carbon tax, the carbon price floor, doubled.

Read more: A global carbon tax would be an incentive for businesses

In March 2016, coal generation fell to zero for the first time since public electricity supply started in 1882, and by April wind overtook coal for the first time.

Coal's dropping output was largely impacted by the increase in lower-emissions gas generation, which was up 45 per cent in 2016.

All of this means carbon emissions from UK power generation will have fallen by around 20 per cent in 2016 to approximately half those in 2010.

Read more: UK leads record drop in carbon emissions

If other sectors' emissions remain unchanged, the UK's overall carbon emissions will be cut by six per cent for the year.

Three UK coal-fired power stations shut down in spring 2016, and there are plans to close the remaining eight coal plants by 2025.

The department of business, energy and industrial strategy will publish its own estimates on 30 March.

Read more: Government rethinks wind power stance

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