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UK greenhouse gas emissions fall in 2017 for fifth year

29 March 2018

The UK's greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 3% last year as renewable power output rose and coal-fired power generation fell. In the fifth yearly decline in a row, output fell to 456m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), down from 468m tonnes of CO2e in 2016, according to data released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

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The 2017 figure is down 43% from 1990's 794m tonnes of CO2e. The country’s emissions target is 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

BEIS said the drop in emissions was caused mainly by the reduction in CO2 emissions from the energy supply sector, which fell 8% due to the switch in the fuel mix for electricity generation from coal to renewables, mainly wind and solar.

 “The 2017 figures confirm the ever increasing contribution low carbon and renewable generation are making not just to powering our homes and businesses - but to reducing overall emissions in the UK," said Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK.

“We need to keep up the pace however by ensuring that the lowest cost renewables are no longer excluded from the market - and through other sectors like transport and heating following the energy industry’s lead in reducing emissions.”

Separate provisional data released by BEIS showed power generation from coal plants fell 26% in 2017 to 21.36 terawatt hours (TWh), making up less than 7% of Britain’s total electricity supply. Britain plans to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025 unless they are fitted with technology to capture and store carbon emissions.

Earlier this month, it also rejected plans for a new open cast coal mine in northeastern England on climate grounds.

Gas-fired power generation fell almost 6% in 2017, while renewable power generation from wind and solar soared, the data showed. Wind power rose 33% to a record 40.9 TWh while solar generation was up 43% to a record 2.9 TWh.

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