Great news: last year wind produced more UK energy than coal over a whole year for the first time ever. The government is making an active effort to move away from coal. And that’s worth celebrating.
But that’s not the whole story. Sure, it’s great news that we’re using less dirty coal. And it is also great that renewables are on the rise. But the real success story of last year was gas. Last year, gas increased by 45% to make up 43% of our electricity mix - compared to 11% from wind.
Gas produces about half the emissions coal does, so less coal is good news. But it can only be a temporary measure while we get cleaner alternatives ready. Gas isn’t going to take us to the low carbon future we need if we’re going to tackle climate change. For that we need a cheap and clean energy source - onshore wind.
Onshore wind is cheap. The government’s own figures predict it’ll be cheaper than gas as early as next year. And that’s not even taking into account the cost of climate change - doing that means onshore wind is the cheapest energy source we have.
In their 2015 manifesto, the Conservatives promised to decarbonise our energy system at the lowest cost. Essentially that would mean supporting onshore wind. It’s pretty lucky, then, that onshore wind is so popular. Last autumn 10:10 did a poll and we found that 73% of the public back onshore wind.
And yet the government has all but frozen onshore wind out of the energy system - tying it up in planning red tape and slashing financial support.
Contrast that with fracking, say, with only 35% support. Yet the government is bending over backwards to make it happen - relaxing property and environmental laws so they can frack in more places, and overturning local planning decisions. It’s not the picture of energy democracy we’d like to see.
As coal is phased out of the energy system, we’re at a fork in the road. Supporting onshore wind means cheaper, cleaner power to help us tackle climate change. Stand up for onshore wind today.
Banner photo: Theodore Scott, creative commons