A new report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change published last week has shown that electricity generation by the UK’s major power producers using coal and gas has fallen by 13% compared to the same period (July to September) for the previous year.
Also stated in the report is that use of coal and other solid fuels fell by 23% and natural gas by 0.5% compared to the same period as before. It also reported that bioenergy and waste consumption was up 16%, nuclear up 4.7% and both wind and hydro increased by over 50%. Energy production in total was 10.8% higher than in 2014.
The report added that total primary energy consumption for energy uses rose by 0.6%. However when adjusted to take account of weather differences between the second quarter of 2014 and the second quarter of 2015 it fell by 2%. This was apparently due to the decreasing amount of coal use in electricity generation.
The news of coal consumption falling dramatically will please the government as also last week the Committee on Climate Change published advice to Parliament on the level of the Fifth Carbon Budget which covers the period of 2028 – 32.
The budget places a restriction on the total amount of greenhouse gases the country can emit over five year period in order to the targets relating to reducing overall carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.
Commenting on the Budget, Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “Intriguingly the Committee suggests that meeting the fifth carbon budget could be very cheap or perhaps even free, once you take the real costs of energy into account.
“For example, adapting the national grid for clean electricity generators does incur a cost, but that could be offset by reductions to the public health bill due to less pollution.
“The Committee also makes the point that continuing power sector transformation from fossil fuels to clean generation is essential for an economy-wide low-carbon transition, because that unlocks carbon-cutting in transport and buildings – sectors where progress is currently languishing in the slow lane.”
Simon Bullock, Friends of the Earth senior energy campaigner said: “This is not a fair or just response to the climate change crisis.
“The Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation is at the very lowest end of what they were considering. This means developing countries will have to do far more to help tackle climate change, while the UK can carry on polluting for longer.
“Ahead of crucial climate talks in Paris, the Government should be setting far higher targets, rather than drilling for more oil and gas and weakening policies on energy efficiency and renewable power.”
Emma Pinchbeck, WWF-UK’s Head of Climate and Energy said: “This is a necessary step that would enable the UK to play its fair share in tackling global climate change, and would provide the long term commitment to low-carbon growth that businesses and consumers need.
“The government should accept the committee’s advice and commit to a strong fifth carbon budget this summer. It should also accept proposals to improve the way carbon budgets are set and accounted for to ensure that the 61% reduction is achieved. The Energy Bill currently before Parliament contains a proposal to effect this change. This also deserves Government support.
“Only by acting with clarity on domestic climate policy can the Government show leadership on the international stage.”
Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “The publication of the Fifth Carbon Budget reaffirms what the Committee on Climate Change – the Government’s own advisors – have already said: the amount of renewable electricity generated in the UK must double by 2030 if we are to meet our legally-binding climate change targets.
“It is important to note that onshore wind and solar, our cheapest renewable energy technologies, play a significant role in all scenarios for our future energy mix, and must be included if we are to decarbonise at the lowest cost to the consumer.
“However it is hard to see how any of these renewable technologies will be able to progress given current uncertainty around future support for the sector from the very Government whose advisors are recommending their expansion.
“The report also contradicts the UK Government’s recent statement to only support the deployment of future offshore wind projects if they further reduce costs by an unspecified amount. The Committee clearly argues that it is UK deployment of offshore wind that drives down costs, not the other way around, and that the future energy mix should include the roll-out of offshore wind.”
The fall of coal use for energy generation is a welcome one but as confirmed above much more has to be done in order for us to reach our current carbon emission reductions. With the Paris Climate talks now well under way it will be interesting to see what agreements are made on further future reductions.
If as expected these targets are increased then we must act quickly to ensure we are on track to meet them. A return of renewable subsidies must not be ruled out, especially when the cost of them will ultimately be a lot less than the alternatives. We await news from the Paris summit with the hope that any new targets will force our policy makers hand and renew their commitment to renewable energy generation.