This interactive article shows how the UK has transformed its electricity supply in a decade – and how things are expected to continue changing.
To tell this story of unprecedented change, Carbon Brief has mapped every power plant in the UK, in each year since 2008, as well as taken a look into the future. From the smallest solar rooftop to the largest coal-fired giant, this UK map is the most comprehensive ever published, containing nearly 3,000 larger sites and more than 800,000 smaller ones.
Back in 2008, as the Climate Change Act was becoming law, some four-fifths of the UK’s electricity came from fossil fuels – and climate campaigners were resisting plans for a new fleet of coal-fired power stations. Emissions from the sector had barely changed for years, making it the largest contributor to the UK’s total by far.
Since then, the UK has cleaned up its electricity mix faster than any other major world economy. Coal-fired power has virtually disappeared and even gas use is down by a quarter. Instead, the country now gets more than half of its electricity from low-carbon sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear. Renewables have filled the gap left by fossil fuels, along with falling electricity demand.
All this means the government’s targets to phase out coal by 2025 and largely decarbonise the grid by 2030 could be met years ahead of schedule. The grid in Great Britain recently ran for a record 18 days straight without burning coal – the first time this has happened since 1882 – and coal generates less than 5% of the mix overall.
This is the story of the policy decisions and other developments behind the UK electricity sector’s decade of transformation.
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