It was the cleanest year on record because of an increase in the use of zero-carbon fuel such as wind, solar and nuclear, the UK’s power operators said. Gas and coal use has dropped over the last 12 months as the UK looks to burn less polluting fuels.
The dramatic turnaround in the use of polluting fuels comes as the UK gets to the halfway point of a plan to use “net zero” greenhouse gases by 2050.
The commitment is an attempt to help stem the effects of climate change, and mitigate extreme weather that has seen the hottest ever December day and a variety of other records broken throughout 2019.
Fossil fuels accounted for only 43 per cent of the energy used by the National Grid over the last year, the newly released data showed. Most of the rest – 48.5 per cent – came from sources such as wind farms, hydro plants, solar and nuclear energy and clean power imported through subsea cables.
The remaining 8.5 per cent came from biomass, which is renewable but is polluting when it is burnt for energy.
Just 30 years ago, in 1990, coal accounted for the vast majority of Britain’s power supply – but it has dropped from about 75 per cent then to just 2.1 per cent now.
The difference has been made up largely by zero-carbon renewables such as wind, solar and hydro, which represented only 2.3 per cent of the power supply in 1990 but now make up 26.5 per cent.
The use of gas has also surged, going from hardly being used in 1990 to 38.4 per cent of the UK’s energy mix.
National Grid chief executive John Pettigrew said: “As we enter a new decade, this truly is a historic moment and an opportunity to reflect on how much has been achieved.
“At National Grid, we know we have a critical role in the acceleration towards a cleaner future and are committed to playing our part in delivering a safe and secure energy system that works for all.”
The grid says it plans to increase the proportion of clean energy used even more, and says it will spend £1bn to move towards net zero. It will do so through new equipmnt and technology that it hopes will allow it to operate even when only renewables and nuclear are providing energy.
The year has seen a variety of breakthroughs for the National Grid, including a record 18 days without electricity from coal and the greenest day since the industrial revolution on 17 August, when 88 per cent of energy came from low-carbon sources.