Wind power overtakes nuclear energy in UK for first time over last three months

Record comes as MPs warn of 'dramatic and worrying collapse' in clean energy investment

Tom Embury-Dennis
Wednesday 16 May 2018 10:11
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Gale force winds hit Whitley Bay as UK sets new wind power record

Windfarms provided more electricity than Britain’s nuclear power stations in the first three months of 2018, the first time it has ever done so across a quarter.

Between January and March, wind power produced 18.8% of the UK’s energy needs, compared to nuclear’s 18.76%. Gas was still the dominant source of the country’s electricity, at 39.4%.

Overnight on 17 March, wind accounted for almost half (47%) of Britain’s electricity, another new record, a report by researchers at Imperial College London revealed.

Despite doubts over wind’s ability to keep up supply during cold, calm spells, it provided between 12% and 43% of Britain’s electricity demand during the so-called Beast from the East, when the UK was struck by a prolonged and vicious cold snap at the end of February.

The opening of a new 2.2GW cable connecting Scotland - which has 7.7GW of wind capacity – to North Wales also helped to generate additional capacity over the first three months of the year.

Nuclear power was held back in the first quarter after two reactors temporarily went offline for maintenance, while another shut down after seaweed clogged the plant’s cooling system.

But the apparent progress in renewables came as MPs warned there had been a “dramatic and worrying collapse” in clean energy investment over the past three years.

Despite low-carbon sources providing more than half of Britain’s electricity needs last year, annual investment in clean energy dropped 50 per cent in 2017, according to the Commons environmental audit committee.

A report published by MPs blamed government policy changes, including cuts to clean energy subsidies.

“Billions of pounds of investment is needed in clean energy, transport, heating and industry to meet our carbon targets,” said Mary Creagh, Labour MP and the committee’s chair.

“But a dramatic fall in investment is threatening the government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets.”

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