The UK's renewable electricity outpaced its fossil fuel generation for the first time in 2020 and could remain the largest source of electricity in the future, according to an independent climate thinktank. The thinktank behind the report, Ember, revealed that renewable energy generated by wind, sunlight, water and wood made up 42% of the UK's electricity last year compared with 41% generated from gas and coal plants together. Although renewable energy has overtaken fossil fuels during the summer months before, 2020 was the first time that renewables were the main source of the UK's electricity over a year. Renewable energy also outperformed fossil fuels across the EU for the first time, according to the report, following a collapse in the use of coal last year. Ember said the UK's growing stable of windfarms was one of the main reasons for the country's renewable record.
Statistics on the production of energy are fairly reliable; accurate statistics on the consumption of energy by major sectors are harder to come by; and data on the energy consumed in the production of specific goods are even less reliable. Such energy embodied in products is part of the environmental price we pay for everything we own and use. The estimation of the embodied energy of finished goods relies not only on indisputable facts--so much steel in a car, so many microchips in a computer--but also on the inevitable simplifications and assumptions that must be made to derive overall rates. The challenge is to select reasonable, representative rates; the reward is to get a new perspective on the man-made world. Let's focus on mobile devices and cars.
MORE than 100 million people around the world now have access to electricity for the first time thanks to simple solar power systems that typically provide LED lights and a phone charger. More powerful versions include radios and even televisions. The LEDs provide a clean and cheap alternative to the kerosene lamps normally used by those with no electricity. "People spend 50 cents a day on kerosene," says Nick Hughes, co-founder of M-KOPA Solar of Kenya, which has sold 550,000 home solar power systems in East Africa. Some families spend a tenth of their income on fuel for lighting.
Hundreds of renewable energy projects may be asked to turn off this weekend to avoid overloading the grid as the UK's electricity demand plummets to record lows. Britain's demand for electricity is forecast to tumble to a fifth below normal levels due to the spring bank holiday and the shutdown of shops, bars and restaurants mandated by the coronavirus lockdown. National Grid is braced for electricity demand to fall to 15.6GW on Saturday afternoon – a level usually associated with the middle of the night – and continue to drop even lower in the early hours of Sunday morning. Meanwhile, the sunny weather is expected to generate more renewable electricity than the UK needs. "Bank holidays see reduced demand for electricity, and even more so with the current lockdown measures in place," said Amy Weltevreden, a manager at the energy system operator.