UK has become sunnier than ever
A new study from Carbon Brief reports that the UK has produced more
energy from solar panels than from coal-fired power plants in the past
six months. The country has generated 6,964 GWh of electricity from
solar cells, while electricity generated from coal attained at 6,342
GWh, with solar registering a 10% increase. According to a new analysis,
solar panels produced 5.2 per cent of the UK’s electricity demand in the
period from April to September, while coal accounted for merely 4.7 per
cent of the electricity generated.
The amount of solar installed in the UK increased rapidly in 2015, while
coal-fired power stations continued to close. The UK’s capacity for
solar has doubled, from 6GW at the start of 2015 to 12GW now, while
solar generation is definitely increasing, with a 26% rise from the
beginning of this year and up to now.
Thus, this does not signify that solar has won in the UK, as winter is
coming and this requires more energy while the tendency of solar
generation is not likely to keep winning. The government has also
decided to cut the support for solar. It decreased by 65% the subsidies
to householders installing rooftop solar panels.
The Government has vowed to close all its coal plants by 2025 as part of
its efforts to reduce considerably greenhouse gas emissions – as long as
new gas plants can be brought online. Much of the gap caused by closing
coal plants has been filled by gas, with gas increasing from 30 to 45
per cent of total output.
links and images in on-line article]
4 October 2016
Analysis: UK solar beats coal over half a year
The UK’s solar panels generated more electricity than coal across the
past six months combined, Carbon Brief analysis shows, rounding off a
historic half-year of firsts.
Saturday 9 April 2016 was the first-ever day where more electricity was
generated in the UK by solar than by coal. May 2016 was the first-ever
month. The three months from June through to September was the
first-ever quarter. And now the six months to September is the first
These firsts reflect the changing face of UK electricity supplies, with
solar capacity having nearly doubled during 2015. They also reflect
historic lows for coal-fired generation, driven by changes in wholesale
energy markets and the carbon price floor. Carbon Brief runs through the
Solar six months
The UK’s solar panels generated an estimated 6,964 gigawatt hours (GWh)
of electricity during quarter two (Q2) and three (Q3) of 2016, from
April through to September. (See note below regarding data sources and
The solar output was equivalent to 5.2% of UK electricity demand for the
half-year period. It was nearly 10% higher than the 6,342 GWh generated
by coal, which covered 4.7% of demand.
Starting on 1 July, there were 10 straight weeks when solar output
exceeded that from coal.
Solar output is strongly affected by the UK’s seasonal cycle. Roughly
three-quarters of annual UK solar power is generated during the sunnier
half-year from April to September. In contrast, coal generation tends to
increase in winter when electricity demand peaks.
The chart below shows these contrasting seasonal cycles. It also shows
two contrasting broader trends.
First, UK solar capacity has to date reached around 12 gigawatts (GW),
according to research by Solar Intelligence, up from around 6GW at the
start of 2015. Solar generation is increasing as a result, up 26% in
2016 to date, compared to the same period in 2015.
(Note that solar capacity additions have fallen this year, following
subsidy cuts. Note also that while government figures for new capacity
have been consistently too low, independent estimates also show the drop.)
Second, the chart shows how coal generation has fallen rapidly, at a
rate that is far beyond its usual annual cycle. Output in 2016 to date
was 65% below that in 2015. It was down 76% in Q2 and 82% in Q3 compared
to a year earlier.
This year also saw UK coal generation fall to zero on 9 April, for the
first time since 1882, when a coal-fired power station started supplying
electricity to the public for the first time. Since then, there have
been 199 hours when coal was generating no power in the UK.
The drop in coal output has come about because of wholesale energy
market price shifts being more favourable to gas-fired generators than
to coal. In addition, the UK’s carbon floor price doubled in April 2015,
again shifting the economics of electricity generation in favour of gas
Given these price changes, and the government’s stated intention to
phase out all unabated coal by 2025, three coal-fired power stations
took the decision to close this spring.
The key role of the carbon floor price in driving coal off the system is
underlined in recent analysis from consultancy Cornwall Energy. This
shows that removing the UK’s top-up carbon tax would mean coal plants
once again being cheaper to run than gas.
Tom Edwards, Cornwall Energy senior consultant writes:
“This would return the market to the position seen in 2014 when
coal-fired generators were running baseload [all the time] and gas-fired
stations were pushed to the margin.”
It’s worth noting that while gas-fired power stations have replaced most
of the reduction in coal output, the total supplied by the two fossil
fuels is also falling. This is because of increases in electricity
supplied by renewables and imports, along with falling demand.
Methods: The figures for shares of total UK electricity generation are
estimates. They only include solar generation and other forms of
generation that are connected to the transmission grid network. Embedded
generation from wind or other sources is not centrally metered and data
is not available. However, this missing data will not alter the relative
positions of solar and coal generation.
Figures for solar output in the UK are estimates produced by Sheffield
Solar. The project recently updated its estimates of installed UK solar
capacity. Its estimates scale real live data obtained from 324 solar
sites around the UK.
Carbon Brief analysis shows the Sheffield Solar estimates to have a very
small average error of 4%, compared to official government figures for
solar generation since the start of 2015.
Sustainablelorgbiofuel mailing list