UK breaks renewable energy record

The Eco Experts
UK breaks renewable energy record
the sun rises over solar panels in the UK

By 2 min read

Renewable energy generated nearly half of the UK’s electricity in the first three months of 2020, smashing the previous record.

This is the first quarter ever in which renewables have generated more electricity than fossil fuels, according to government reports – and it was no contest.

Green sources of energy (wind, solar, hydropower, and bioenergy) took a 47% share, massively outstripping the 35.4% generated by fossil fuels (coal, gas, and oil).

The government pointed to “increased capacity and higher wind speeds in February” as primary reasons for this new record.

UK electricity generation 2016-2020

A seismic shift from fossil fuels to rising renewables

The previous renewable record was 38.9%, set in the last three months of 2019.

This time last year – in the first quarter of 2019 – renewables generated 35.9% of electricity.

For its share to jump to 47% is incredible, and also reflects how far fossil fuels have fallen.

For context, gas made up 41.8% of the UK’s electricity generation in the first quarter of 2019.

Over the same period this year, it was down to 31.4%.

That means gas has lost 25% of its electricity generation share in the space of a year. 

Oil’s share also fell – and though coal’s share increased slightly, it’s on an unstoppable downward trajectory more broadly.

Coal production hit a record low in 2020’s first quarter. Its total was 26.5% lower than in the first three months of 2019.

Overall, coal produced just 0.87% of the UK’s energy – 34 times less than renewables.

The future is green

The signs all point to renewable energy dominating UK electricity generation for years to come – and perhaps forever.

The UK started generating public electricity in 1882, so it’s taken 138 years to get to the point where green energy is the country’s primary source.

Don’t bet on it changing any time soon.

Josh Jackman Senior Writer

Josh has written about eco-friendly home improvements and climate change for the past three years. His work has featured on the front page of the Financial Times; he’s been interviewed by BBC Radio; and he was the resident expert in BT’s smart home tech initiative.