The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell for a seventh consecutive year in 2019 after a record year for renewable energy, according to government figures.
The provisional data, published by the government on Thursday, revealed a 3.6% fall in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 2018 and almost 28% from 2010.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the energy minister, said the figures show “the extraordinary progress the UK has made in tackling climate change”.
“With record-breaking levels of renewable electricity on the grid we are well placed to build on these efforts in the months and years ahead, while continuing to support the economy through the coronavirus outbreak,” he said.
The outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, and the lockdown of the UK, has already dented energy demand by an estimated 7%, according to Eurelectric, a pan-European trade association. British homes are using more electricity as people stay in and work from home, but this increase has been more than offset by the steep drop in demand for electricity at factories, construction sites and offices.
Electricity demand is expected to fall further as major industries continue to close down to help stem the spread of the pandemic, which should help lead to lower overall emissions in 2020 alongside rising renewable energy generation.
More than a third (36.9%) of the UK’s electricity was generated by renewable energy sources including wind farms, solar panels and biomass-fuelled power plants in 2019, a new record for the sector. The average in the last three months of the year rose to 37.4%, the highest ever recorded for this time of year.
Wind power alone generated almost a fifth of the UK’s electricity over the year as a whole, divided equally between onshore and offshore wind projects, in large part boosted by rising generation from the new Hornsea offshore wind project off the Yorkshire coast which is now the largest offshore wind farm in the world.
Melanie Onn, RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive, said the records will continue as the UK moves away from fossil fuels to reach net zero emissions as fast as possible.
“As well as wind, we’ll use innovative new technologies like renewable hydrogen and marine power, and we’ll scale up battery storage,” she said.
“Low-cost renewables are central to the government’s energy strategy and our sector will grow rapidly in the years ahead, as our domestic supply chain expands and we continue to seize multi-billion pound export opportunities around the world,” Onn added.