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Most Of The U.K.’s Power Now Comes From Alternative Energy

For the first time, a majority of the U.K.’s energy needs were met by low-carbon sources.

Fresh panels soak up some Welsh rays. Photo by Centre for Alternative Technology/Flickr.


The biggest shift in U.K. energy came from wind power, with double the output over coal, and solar, which trumped the fossil fuel for roughly half the year.

By one important measure, Britain has truly gone green. For the first time ever, a majority of the United Kingdom’s energy needs have been met by low-carbon sources. For that, residents can thank a breakout performance by wind and solar energy, although nuclear energy also played a significant role.

Findings released by the climate monitor Carbon Brief show that renewables beat out nuclear power in 2017 29% to 21% in total consumption. Coal continued a plunge down to under 7%, while gas decreased as well, although it still sits at a solid 40% share of fuels. The biggest shift came from wind power, with double the output over coal, and solar, which trumped the fossil fuel for roughly half the year, according to Imperial College London.

The signs of a potential sea change had already begun to make some waves in the months leading up to the news. Last spring, Carbon Brief data revealed that carbon emissions had dropped to levels not seen since labor unrest tanked the numbers in the 1920s.

Of course, the more you look for sources of carbon, the more you see. Data analysis has fueled a deeper look into U.K. emissions hiding in plain sight. University of Manchester researchers recently sized up 40 types of sandwiches, including homemade varieties, and ranked their environmental impact, with the humble household ham and cheese coming out best and the worst marks going to the retail “all-day breakfast sandwich.”

Consuming 11.5 billion sandwiches annually in the U.K. generates, on average, “9.5 million tons of carbon dioxide,” said researcher Adisa Azapagic of the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences — “equivalent to the annual use of 8.6 million cars.”

Meanwhile, there’s also a new national scheme, powered by an app called Refill, to help more Britons opt for tap over bottled water. Without drought troubles to worry about, the shift toward drinking tap water could put a big dent in carbon emissions caused by the production and transportation of the 35 million bottles a day the U.K. drinks its way through. Hey — it’s almost as if clean, natural energy can work as well for humans as it can for machines.

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