From the Guardian
Electricity generated by solar panels on fields and homes outstripped Britain’s ageing coal power stations over the past six months in a historic first.
Climate change analysts Carbon Brief found more electricity came from the sun than coal from April to the end of September, in a report that highlighted the two technologies’ changing fortunes.
Solar had already eclipsed coal for a day in April and then for the whole month of May, with coal providing zero power for the first time in more than 100 years for several days in May. The latest milestone saw an estimated 6,964 gigawatt hours (GWh) generated by solar over the half-year, or 5.4% of the UK’s electricity demand. Coal produced 6,342GWh, or 4.7%.
The trend will not continue into winter because of solar’s seasonal nature, but the symbolic records reveal the dramatic impacts solar subsidies and environmental penalties for coal have wrought.
Increases in the carbon floor price last year have driven three major coal power plants – Longannet, Ferrybridge C and Rugeley – to close earlier this year. That came on top of a similar amount of coal power being closed between 2012 and 2014 because upgrading the stations to meet higher air pollution standards was deemed uneconomic.
A fourth coal plant, Eggborough near Selby in North Yorkshire, was expected to close in February but won a reprieve after it signed a 12-month contract to provide backup capacity to the grid. But the power station’s future after that contract is unclear, and its owners are now consulting on whether to demolish it and build a gas-fired one in its place.
According to trade body Energy UK, there are 10 coal power plants left in the UK. One is currently closed for conversion to biomass, one only operates in winter and another (Eggborough) only provides reserve power when needed.