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Solar and wind farms produce more electricity than any other source for first time

Wind turbines in the Highlands of Scotland.

Wind turbines in the Highlands of Scotland.
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Fossil fuels fell to a record low in the UK’s electricity mix in recent months after wind and solar farms generated more energy than any other source for the first time.

The government’s official figures showed the UK relied on renewables for 38.9% of its electricity in the third quarter of this year, up from a third in the same period last year.

It was the first time that renewable energy nudged narrowly ahead of gas-fired power, which made up 38.8% of the electricity mix, to emerge as the UK’s biggest source of power.

The rise of renewables combined with output from Britain’s nuclear power plants pushed fossil fuels to their lowest share of the UK’s energy mix on record, according to the government data.

Britain’s dwindling number of coal-fired power plants contributed only 1% of the UK’s electricity in the third quarter, down from 2.5% in the same period in 2018.

The dip in coal power was in part due to the earlier-than-expected end of generation at the Cottam coal plant in Nottinghamshire, which burned through its remaining coal stocks ahead of its official 30 September finish date. Another two coal plants, Aberthaw B and Fiddler’s Ferry, are due to close in March, leaving four coal-fired power plants in the UK.

The report also revealed that the UK’s growing fleet of offshore wind projects generated more electricity than onshore wind farms for the first time.

The giant turbines off the UK coast generated 9.8% of the UK’s electricity, up from 6.7% in 2018. Onshore wind farms lagged slightly, generating 9.2% of the UK’s electricity in the third quarter, up from 7.3% in same period last year.

Since the record-breaking quarter, wind power reached fresh highs earlier this month to generate almost 45% of the UK’s electricity over a one-day period, and an all-time high of 16GW overnight.

The wind power highs meant thousands of homes were paid to plug in their electric vehicles overnight and set their dishwashers on timers for the early hours of the morning to make use of the extra renewable energy.


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