The sun provided British homes and businesses with more power than coal-fired power stations for 24 hours last weekend (4-5th June).
While solar power has previously beaten coal for electricity generation over a few hours in the UK, Saturday was the first time this happened for a full day.
Analysts said the symbolic milestone showed how dramatic coal’s decline had been due to carbon taxes, as solar had “exploded” across the UK in recent years.
National Grid data gathered by climate analysts Carbon Brief showed that 29 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power was generated on Saturday by solar, or 4% of national demand that day, versus 21GWh from coal-fired power stations.
“This first for solar reflects the major shifts going on in the electricity system,” said Carbon Brief in its analysis. “Last weekend’s solar breakthrough could not have happened without the increase in solar capacity. However, an ongoing collapse in coal generation was the more immediate cause.”
Solar power installations have surged in the UK over the past two years, driven by incentives and falling costs. The industry says there is now 12GW of electricity-generating capacity, out of the UK’s total capacity of 80-90GW.
“It is also one of the cheapest major renewables and the most popular with the British public, so why the UK government has stepped back from supporting this winning technology is difficult to understand,” said a spokeswoman for the Solar Trade Association.
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