Renewable energy sources provided more electricity to UK homes and businesses than fossil fuels for the first time over the last quarter, according to new research.
The renewables record was set in the third quarter of this year after its share of the electricity mix rose to 40%.
It is the first time that electricity from British windfarms, solar panels and renewable biomass plants has surpassed fossil fuels since the UK’s first power plant fired up in 1882.
The new milestone confirms predictions made by National Grid that 2019 will be the first year since the Industrial Revolution that zero-carbon electricity – renewables and nuclear – overtakes gas and coal-fired power.
A string of new offshore windfarms built this year helped nudge renewables past fossil fuels, which made up 39% of UK electricity, in a crucial tipping point in Britain’s energy transition.
Fossil fuels made up four-fifths of the country’s electricity fewer than 10 years ago, split between gas and coal, but the latest analysis by Carbon Brief shows that coal-fired power was less than 1% of all electricity generated.
British coal plants are shutting down ahead of a 2025 ban. By next spring just four coal plants will remain in the UK: the West Burton A and Ratcliffe-on-Soar plants in Nottinghamshire, Kilroot in Northern Ireland and two generation units at the Drax site in North Yorkshire, which are earmarked for conversion to burn gas.
Gas-fired power makes up the bulk of the dwindling share of fossil fuels in the energy system at 38%. Nuclear power provided slightly less than a fifth of the UK’s electricity in the last quarter, the report said.
Wind power is the UK’s strongest source of renewable energy and made up 20% of the UK’s electricity following a series of major windfarm openings in recent years. Electricity from renewable biomass plants made up 12% of the energy system, while solar panels contributed 6%.