There’s some good news in the government’s latest energy statistics bulletin. Renewable energy provided almost a quarter of Britain’s electricity in 2015.
That’s up from 19% in 2014, a significant jump. It overtakes coal power to take second place in the list of energy sources, with gas still in the lead. This record performance has been helped along by 2015 being the windiest year for 15 years, and soaring solar capacity.
If you accept nuclear power as a low carbon source, then we’re running at 45.5% low-carbon electricity. Not bad at all. Coal use, meanwhile, has dropped significantly. It wasn’t so very long ago that coal was providing almost 40% of our electricity. A lot can happen in four years.
There’s no call for complacency in these figures. 22% is still far too much coal in an age of climate change, and the faster we can knock that to zero, the better. Like Scotland, which shut off its last coal power station last month. And ideally, we should eliminate coal by growing renewable energy and storage, rather than over-priced nuclear and fracked gas. With much of the government’s support for renewable energy withdrawn last year, further progress may be slower.
It’s also worth remembering that our low carbon targets are for energy use overall, not just electricity generation. The bigger picture is still dominated by oil use, which remains at around 45% of total energy consumption, a figure that has scarcely budged in 30 years. So there is something to celebrate in how far things have moved on our fuel mix, but a long way to go yet.