Greenhouse emissions fall for the seventh year
Provisional data published by the government on the 26th of March has shown that the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell for a seventh consecutive year in 2019. Let’s take a closer look at what this means for the UK and its 2050 carbon-neutral goals.
Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng has praised her own government’s “extraordinary progress” in tackling climate change, which may be overstating this 3.6% drop somewhat. It is true, however, that since 2010 the UK’s emissions have come down by almost a third, which is an achievement.
Effect of Coronavirus
These figures have come out at a time when energy use is in decline, with the lockdown that has come as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak leading to a 7% decrease in demand for energy.
Expected to see energy use rise with everyone working from home?It’s obviously true that home energy use has increased since people have started working from home, but the huge drop in demand factories, construction sites and offices has more than offset this.
A further drop in demand for electricity is expected as more and more businesses are forced to shut up shop - which will mean even fewer emissions in 2020. This presents a very slight silver lining to the crisis the UK and the world is currently experiencing.
An increase in the use of renewables
The main driver behind continuous drops in emissions, however, is the shift in focus from traditional energy sources to cleaner renewable sources of energy that has been taking place in recent years.
Renewable energy in the UK is generated mainly from the following sources:
- Wind farms
- Tidal energy
- Solar panels
- Nuclear plants
Wind farms are becoming particularly important to the UK energy market, with almost a fifth of the country’s energy supply being generated through wind energy. Around 37% of our electricity last year came from renewable sources, which is a new record and shows that much is being done to push us toward a greener future.
It’s also the case that it’s becoming cheaper and thus easier to make a profit to generate energy through renewable sources. A report into Australia’s thermal coal export industry earlier this year found that building wind and solar plants will soon be cheaper, in fact, than existing coal-fired power stations in every major market the world over.
While the UK is in no danger of leading the world in solar energy production, an increasingly cost-effective means of channelling wind energy will allow it to keep on making strides toward a more renewable energy market. The new Hornsea offshore wind farm, the largest of its kind in the world, is evidence of this.
Optimism for development beyond wind
Deputy chief executive of RenewableUK Melanie Onn is optimistic about the UK’s potential to diversify into renewables outside of wind energy. “As well as wind,” she said, “we’ll use innovative new technologies like renewable hydrogen and marine power, and we’ll scale up battery storage.”
“Low-cost renewables are central to the government’s energy strategy and our sector will grow rapidly in the years ahead as our domestic supply chain expands and we continue to seize multi-billion-pound export opportunities around the world.”