Wind power has surged while gas use has fallen by over a fifth, putting UK on course to meet 2020 clean energy and climate goal.
The UK is on track to meet its renewable energy goals, with wind power substituting for gas and coal use and driving down greenhouse gas emissions, according to new analyses. However, the actions of the next government are likely to be crucial in deciding whether the legally binding targets can be met.
Gas use in the UK fell by more than a fifth from 2005 to 2012, as energy efficiency increased across the economy and green energy took up more of the burden.
Under European Union targets, the UK must produce 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, and is one of a small number of big member states to be judged on track to meet all of its energy and climate commitments by the European environment agency.
This was confirmed on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics, which found that 15% of the UK’s electricity came from renewable sources in 2013. This puts the UK about halfway towards its commitments, because the overall energy target includes transport and heating, as well as electricity generation. For the UK to meet its EU goals, electricity generation from renewable sources is likely to have to increase to above 30% by 2020.
Gas dominates the UK’s domestic heating supply, and for most of the past two decades has been the main source of electricity generation. But this situation has reversed in the last three years, with gas use falling sharply and the slack taken up by ageing coal-fired power stations, now the biggest source of the UK’s electricity generation. This is owing to a combination of factors, including a very low price on carbon dioxide emissions under the EU’s carbon trading scheme (a high price was intended to discourage coal use) and the knock-on effects of the shale gas boom in the US, where cheap gas use has soared creating a glut of cheap coal on the international market. Gas in the UK has remained more expensive, as North Sea supplies have been rapidly depleted.