UK solar outshines coal power over an entire month for first time


The UK’s solar panels have generated more electricity than coal in May 2016, the first-ever calendar month to pass the milestone, Carbon Brief analysis shows.

According to Carbon Brief, solar power in the UK generated an estimated 1,336 GWh of electricity in May, while coal only generated 893 GWh.

The latest analysis, based on figures provided by Sheffield Solar, follows on from Carbon Brief’s earlier figures showing Solar surpassing coal over a whole day for the first full day on 9 April, and for the first full week from 3 May 2016. The electricity produced by coal fell to zero several times in early May, thought to be the first time this had happened since the late 19th century.

While these milestones are largely symbolic, they do highlight the major changes going on in the UK electricity system.

Longer days and more sunshine are contributing factors that have lead to a series of milestones in recent weeks.

During May, solar generated approximately 6% of the UK’s electricity needs, while coal only generated 4%. Back in January, those figures respectively were 1% and 17% – highlighting the importance of the latest news.

There has been a huge reduction in coal-fired power generation in the UK since the start of 2016. Nearly a quarter of electricity generation in 2015 was from coal but since then the power market economics have shifted in favour of gas and several coal plants have opted to close.

Juliet Davenport, chief executive of renewable electricity supplier Good Energy, said: “This is fantastic news and marks an historic turning point in the way Britain is powered.

“Solar has transformed the way the UK has sourced electricity in recent years, with more than 750,000 homes now generating their own energy from the sun.

“It’s a great cause for celebration as it’s helped show us that our future can be truly fossil fuel-free.”