UK achieves solar power record as temperatures soar

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A record amount of solar power was generated on Friday as Britain basked in sunshine and temperatures of up to 28C, the National Grid has said.

It said 8.7 gigawatts (GW) had been generated at lunchtime, representing 24.3% of total generation across the UK.

The level tops the previous record of 8.48GW set on 10 May.

Duncan Burt, head of control room operations at National Grid, called it the “beginning of a new era”.

“We now have significant volumes of renewable energy on the system,” he said. “We also have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand.”

Alongside the contribution from solar, 23% of power came from nuclear sources, 30% from natural gas and just 1.4% from coal.

Wind, hydro power and biomass were also used.

A National Grid spokeswoman said the record level of solar power was achieved largely because of to the clear and sunny weather on Friday.

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She added that it would have been significantly harder to reach if it had been cloudy.

Britain has been getting more of its energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, as it seeks to meet European Union targets and phase out coal power plants.

However, environmentalists have criticised the government’s decision to cut subsidies to the solar power industry in 2015.

Hannah Martin, head of energy for Greenpeace in the UK, said: “Today’s new record is a reminder of what the UK could achieve if our government reversed its cuts to support for solar.

“All around the world, solar power keeps beating new records as costs come down and power generation goes up.”

In April, Britain went a full day without using coal to generate electricity for the first time since the 1880s.

The government hopes to close all coal-fired power plants by 2025 and coal accounted for just 9% of electricity generation in 2016 – down from 23% the year before.