Fossil fuels fall to record low proportion of UK energy mix

The proportion of the UK’s power generation mix made up by fossil fuels has fallen to a record low after renewable energy became the UK’s largest source of electricity.

Government figures showed the UK relied on renewables, such as wind and solar, for 38.9% of its electricity in the third quarter of this year, up from one-third in the same period in 2018.

Renewable energy moved 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.

Renewable energy graphic

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

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

This was in part due to the earlier-than-expected end of generation at Cottam coal plant in Nottinghamshire, which burned through its remaining coal stocks before the 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 stations in the UK.

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

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The giant turbines off the coast generated 9.8% of the UK’s electricity, up from 6.7% in 2018. Onshore windfarms lagged slightly behind, generating 9.2% of the UK’s electricity in the third quarter, up from 7.3% in the 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 on one day, 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 energy.