UK Power Edges Toward Renewable s

For the first time UK has more power coming from zero-carbon sources than fossil fuels.
This milestone has been passed for the first five months of 2019.
National Grid says clean energy has nudged ahead with 48% against 47% for coal and gas. The other 5% is biomass burning.

Interesting to note the trend going back 10 years. This trend will continue as the growth in wind farm coming on line this year & these planned for the next 10 years is significant


Mike, although I haven’t really done much research, I’m not sure we should be including Biomass as a clean energy source.

My understanding is that it’s produced from spruce, birch and other woods, converted into pellet form, in itself maybe not the the most eco-friendly process.

One of our larger power stations, Drax, in Yorkshire, now claims to be running solely on Biomass, but since it’s rumoured to be shipped from Canada, that doesn’t seem too clever either.

Is this just another example of official bodies putting out eco-friendly statements, behind which the reality is somewhat different?


Edit : I’ve looked again at your graph, and see that Biomass burning is not included in the clean fuels … apologies.

Nevertheless, it hasn’t stopped the authorities at Drax “hinting” that it should be. :man_shrugging:

When Drax was converted to permit burning of biomas I was studying at the RAC and visited one of the farms that was growing willow as a feed stock. The received wisdom that feedstock was only financially viable if it came from within a radius of 100 miles. However, few farmers saw the potential, especially without considerable subsidies, to convert to willow. It is economical to import from Canada; whether it is sustainable depends on the replanting policy, but I would be surprised if it was not sustainable. The issue of sea transport is harder to gauge. As an aside they used an old cane sugar harvester to reap the willow.
One local estate has converted to biomas heating / water for the village, but charge tenants a rate tied to the price of oil. They had plans to plant willow but have not got around to it. Again buying in biomas is costly if you cannot produce it locally. Another local institution brings biomass in from North Wales to their location.

Marine transport (if using bulk carriers) is unlikely to be a major addition to the carbon footprint of the biomass. Local transport by road on the other hand could be a very considerable contributor.

Valid discussion point Dave. I believe it depends very much on what the biomass is.
It can be burning, but also can be a composting with gas recovery for power generation.
In my area biomass is predominantly energy recovery from non-recyclable refuse. Although it is a burning process, it gets a very large percentage in recovery terms in the form of self power of the recovery plant itself, electricity for up to 50,000 homes, heat for a local heating scheme, solid materials recovery for various byproducts. And finally the heat recovery in the plant, the carbon scrubbing & particulate filtering means practically nothing goes up the chimney.


Interesting @Mike-B, thanks for sharing.
Where is this example?

Viridor ERF, Ardley, Oxfordshire.

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Yes, what I had in mind was not so much the economics involved in shipping Biomass all the way from Canada, but rather the eco-cost in having a fleet of bulk carriers endlessly chugging back and forth to keep Drax running.

I’m certainly no eco-warrior myself, having spent most of my working life involved in oil and gas extraction, but I do question the superficial flaunting of Green credentials on the part of, (in this instance), our UK energy suppliers.

As an aside, I happily run solar panels, Chez Dave, but cannot begin to understand why our “Green leaning” government decided to end the Feed in Tariff at the end of March this year.


Ah yes - all the food waste from the colleges!
Excellent example

My paperwork let me down on both solar panels and air source heat pumps- sadly I was travelling at the time and missed the deadlines.

I’m in two minds about subsidies: one one hand it is an inducement to adopt new technology, but on the other hand most who adopt don’t need the subsidies. Of course we most people would not turn down a grant if it’s available, but sometimes I think it’s a failing of the capitalist model.

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From what little knowledge I have, it seems that the scheme was phased out largely because of a serious underestimation of the amount that the cost of the FIT would add to our energy bills.

Really, we were / are still paying the same, one way or another, if one offsets the subsidy against the ever increasing energy bills?

Still, regardless of my own lack of eco-credentials, it’s quite satisfying to fire up the washing machine on sunny days! :wink:

I assume - I hope - you are joking ???

Biomass for energy certainly makes sense if it is waste that would otherwise be allowed to rot. That was how the wood pellet thing started in Canada, as waste from sawmills. With incentives for renewables rolled out in Europe, it actually became economic to ship them, and to grow trees solely for that purpose. But that is a subsidy-distorted market and not sustainable in the long-term. Growing trees for energy production is low-carbon, but is likely not the best use of the land. Farming or permanent reforestation might be better. And with the plummeting cost of solar, we’ll see biological carbon farming diminish as we place more solar farms in sunny places. The development of high-voltage DC transmission is increasing flexibility here.


This might not be the real reason, but I saw a quote some months ago from a (junior?) minister to the effect that they had been told by someone that they had invested in solar because their accountant had said it was a great financial investment. The minister thought this was disgraceful and meant the FiT should stop cos people were getting solar for the wrong reasons. I just about lost the will to live at that point - govt stops subsidy cos subsidy makes people do the thing you want them to do…


Demonstrating yet again, the clear thinking of those in power … sorry! :wink:

Seriously though, is it any wonder that so many of us have become so cynical regarding HMG?

Further back, we were all encouraged to adopt diesel cars, and HMG’s “Lean Green Machine” dept. made it financially advantageous to do so … and look how that has ended.

Depends what you are referring to?
Subsidies distort the market …
Current capitalist models do not account for environmental degradation and the concept of natural capital needs further refinement.

Pointless thread drift = ignore


How does the quantity of power generated each year look ?

Has the quantity gradually increased, decreased or remained roughly constant ?


I agree, but exporting wood to the UK (which is already the world’s largest importer of timber) via a very long land and sea journey is really bad. You can kid yourself that it’s carbon neutral, but it takes many years for any replanted trees to grow back, and this is a form of monoculture that has a catastrophic effect on biodiversity.