Green Energy Passes Nuclear Power For First Time In U.K.

Even though the United Kingdom is continuing to back nuclear energy and cut off subsidies for wind and solar projects in 2015, the latter sources surpassed nuclear for the first time in the last quarter of 2017 according to recent government findings.


May 22 2019, Updated 10:05 a.m. ET

Wind and solar energy has surpassed nuclear power for the first time in the United Kingdom. Based on the government’s data, 18.33 terawatt-hours of renewable power was generated compared to 16.69 terawatt-hours of nuclear energy in the fourth quarter of 2017. It’s a massive jump from the same time a year before, and it’s now on the path to catch gas.

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The Department for Brand Energy and Infrastructure Services, which was created by Prime Minister Theresa May back in the summer of 2016, also revealed that three percent of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions fell last year. Transition to renewable energy from coal was the biggest cause for that decrease.

In total, low-carbon sources, which includes wind, solar, nuclear and biomass, increased by nearly five percent from 2016. That made a big dent into power generated from gas, falling from over 40 TWh to 36.12 TWh in a span of a year. Gas is still fairly dominant in the UK’s energy generation, but it won’t be for long at this rate.

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Increased capacity from wind farms and solar panels has not only significantly increased their stance over coal-fired power plants, but they now have surpassed nuclear energy. There was at least an eight-terawatt difference in favor of nuclear in the fourth quarter of 2016. Major price decreases in wind and solar power have made some believe that nuclear power could be obsolete in the near future.

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These stats will surely spark more calls for the UK’s government to stop pursuing nuclear energy after they cut subsidies for large-scale solar and onshore wind projects back in 2015. Despite not being able to keep up with the lower costs, the government was still in support of smaller nuclear reactors that would replace coal-fired and old nuclear plants.

“These official figures confirm that it’s been another record-breaking year for wind energy, which generated 15 percent of the UK’s electricity in 2017,” Emma Pinchbeck, executive director of RenewableUK, told The Independent. “The move to a smart, renewables-led energy system is well underway.”

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Nuclear power took a significant hit last year around the world. In the United States, multiple projects were abandoned due to delayed development and increased costs. France is looking to build more renewable sources and cut nuclear share from 75 to 50 percent. South Korea has also stopped nuclear expansion and Japan is still reeling from the Fukushima disaster.

All eight nuclear power plants in the UK are expected to close by 2035. Even with the lack of subsidies for renewable projects, they’ve already surpassed nuclear power generation for the first time. These new statistics could trigger the government to finally change their ways and to pursue more wind and solar projects sooner than later.

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