Solar beats Coal in the UK

This article was first featured as a LinkedIn post from Canadian Solar CEO Dr. Shawn Qu:

On the global drive towards clean and affordable energy, the United Kingdom has crossed two important milestones in the last two months.

On a sunny day in April, for the first time in history, more energy was produced by solar panels in the UK than by coal-fired power plants over the course of a full day.

Moreover, there was a week in May when more electricity was generated from the sun than from coal – and the summer is just beginning…

As I am adding the finishing touches to this article, the final numbers for the month of May came in. Data compiled by Carbon Brief reveals that solar arrays pumped 1,336 GWh of electricity into the UK's grid in May, nearly doubling the output of coal, which came in at 893 GWh. Solar was responsible for 6% of the UK's electricity generation in May, with coal supplying just 4%.

These milestones are significant and signal a sea change. It reflects the shift of the UK’s electricity system from fossil-based centralized power stations to distributed renewable energy solutions.

With an annual emission of approximately 87 million tons of CO2 in 2014, the UK is the second largest CO2 emitter in Europe after Germany, and pollution is becoming an increasing problem in everyday life. Some areas of London breach the EU’s annual limit of air pollution in just one week. Solar provides a solution to this problem. Over the past two years, solar power installations have surged in the UK, partially driven by incentives but even more by falling costs.

I am happy and proud that Canadian Solar has contributed to the UK’s renewable energy portfolio. In the first four months of 2016,  we completed six solar power plants in the UK with a combined capacity of 39 MW, out of 100 MW in total.

Although the UK is still holding on to its nuclear plans and cutting subsidies for renewables, we are confident that solar will have a very bright future in the UK on the long-term. We’ve even provided solar panels for the roof tops of the UK’s national weather service, the Met Office in Exeter, hoping for better weather in the UK for solar to thrive.