On 21 June the National Grid announced zero-carbon sources had overtaken fossil fuels as a power source in the UK for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

National Grid statistics show that 48% of the UK’s energy came from zero-carbon sources, compared with 47% from fossil fuel and 5% biomass in the period January to May 2019.

Of the 48% low carbon energy, 24% came from renewables like wind and solar, 18% nuclear power and 6% from imports. Out of the fossil fuels, gas is the UK’s largest energy source with 41%, with coal falling to 3% and imports at 3%.

Industry reaction

National Grid CEO John Pettigrew said: “The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past ten years means we can now say 2019 will be the year net zero power beats fossil fuel-fired generation for the first time.

“We seek to maintain the integrity of these systems while keeping energy costs down for UK homes and businesses. But as we look to the future we are proud to champion world-leading feats of British engineering as we move to a net zero power grid.”

National Grid also tweeted: “Welcome to a new era of clean power. This year more of Britain’s electricity is being generated from zero-carbon sources than fossil fuels for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. This milestone is happening now.”

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Renewables UK head of external affairs Luke Clark said: “Last month the UK set a new record for generating electricity without using coal for 18 days straight, that’s the shape of things to come, with coal phased out entirely by 2025 and offshore wind becoming the backbone of our future clean energy system.

“Renewables are already generating a third of our electricity annually; more than half of which comes from wind alone. But we also need to maximise the use of other technologies like low-cost onshore wind and innovative tidal energy, if we’re to reach the Government’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the lowest cost to consumers”.

Nuclear Industry Association chief executive Tom Greatrex added: “This will be a landmark moment and a huge step on the road to tackling the climate change challenge.

“But hitting the Government’s new ambitious target of reaching net zero by 2050 means we’ve got to go even further. To achieve this, every form of low carbon electricity generation needs to pull its weight.

“In the UK’s first ever week without coal-fired power in May of this year, nuclear supplied over 50% of the UK’s domestically generated clean electricity.

“There is a clear and urgent need to replace our ageing fleet, which will be all but gone by 2030. With the right commitment in place, our industry can deliver a pipeline of affordable clean power, develop new technologies and create thousands of highly skilled jobs in the process.”