UK surges into top 10 low-carbon electricity rankings

Britain has for the first time entered the top 10 rankings of a league table which compares large and industrialised countries on the carbon content of power supplies.

The UK’s shift up 13 places to 7th spot has been attributed primarily to its carbon price, which has driven uptake in renewables and a shift away from coal and gas-fired power generation.

Researchers at Imperial College London note that the UK is reducing carbon emissions from electricity faster than any other major country. Indeed, emissions from electricity almost halved (47%) between 2012-16, with coal-fired power generation falling by 80% during this time.

Imperial cited the carbon price floor set by the UK Government, which charges power generators £23/tonne of CO2 produced, compared to £5/tonne in Europe.

“The analysis by Dr Staffell and the team at Imperial College London shows quite clearly the impact Britain’s carbon price has had in terms of helping to ensure we produce cleaner power for the UK’s homes and businesses,” said Andy Koss, chief executive of Drax Power, which collaborated with Imperial College London on the project.

Meaningful action

Koss said it will be vital for the Chancellor to maintain a “meaningful” carbon price in the Autumn Budget next Wednesday (22 November) if the UK is to meet its climate change pledges. Failure to do so could reverse the impressive results achieved so far, Koss warned.

The report came in the same week that research from global IT consultancy urged the UK to adopt a higher carbon price to spur acceleration in renewable deployment. Separate analysis suggests that a carbon price of £40 per tonne may be required to shut down all remaining coal plants by 2025.

The Imperial research highlights less encouraging performances in other countries where coal power stations only have to pay the lower EU carbon price. In the Netherlands, for instance, coal-fired electricity output has risen by 40% in five years.

Researchers note that the six countries with lower carbon electricity than the UK benefit from significant hydropower resources or, in the case of France, a heavy reliance on nuclear. India and South Africa have the dirtiest power sectors on the list, with 75-90 of their power generated by coal.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Scandinavian power systems of Norway and Sweden were ranked the cleanest. In a separate new report earlier this week, Sweden beat other EU countries in a table which ordered the world’s major countries in order of action on climate change.

George Ogleby

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