Vodafone trials open-access radio technology in UK

October 7th, 2019 no comment

The OpenRAN (Radio Access Networks) technology was developed jointly by Vodafone and Intel, with involvement from Parallel Wireless, Mavenir and Lime Microsystems. It is intended to standardise the design and function of hardware and software design in key elements of radio access networks, including masts and antennas. This renders them ‘vendor-neutral’, allowing smaller suppliers to provide equipment and services and – hopefully – bring down the cost of calls, texts and mobile data access.

Vodafone has said that this could provide all sorts of communities with improved mobile internet coverage through the rollout of standardised low-cost equipment.

The OpenRAN project has led to the development of Vodafone’s Open CrowdCell technology, which uses relay nodes to generate tiny cells to expand mobile coverage into localised areas such as festival grounds, vehicles and large buildings.

Vodafone’s OpenRAN technology has been trialled under laboratory conditions in South Africa and deployed for both urban and rural 2G and 4G services in Turkey. This week, the technology will be launched in 120 rural areas in the UK, with additional trials to follow in Mozambique and the DRC.

“OpenRAN improves the network economics enabling us to reach more people in rural communities and that supports our goal to build digital societies in which no one is left behind,” said Nick Read, Vodafone Group CEO. Read added that the technology was ready to be fast-tracked into Europe.

The mobile telecommunications equipment market is dominated by three key players: China’s Huawei, Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia. Carriers tend to use a combination of equipment from these vendors to avoid dependence on a single supplier.

This year, carriers have been spooked by the White House’s blacklisting of Huawei – the world’s largest telecommunications manufacturer – over accusations of trade theft, violating trade sanctions and acting as a tool for espionage by the Chinese government: accusations denied in full by Huawei. This has placed question marks over the future of Huawei in the 5G infrastructure of US allies, including the UK, and potentially slowing the rollout of 5G infrastructure.

Last week, Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chair of Indian mobile carrier Airtel, backed Huawei’s involvement in India’s next-generation mobile network, commenting that its 5G equipment is “significantly superior to Ericsson and Nokia”. Huawei’s own CEO, Ren Zhengfei, also surprised everyone when he said in an interview that his company is prepared to license its 5G mobile technology to a US firm, or even sell the 5G division wholesale, in order to help alleviate the security concerns over the use of its products in America and elsewhere.

This year, Vodafone has made some bold and unexpected decisions in the race to provide a good value mobile network with wide coverage, including agreeing to share some 5G infrastructure with rival O2 and being the first UK carrier to offer speed-based unlimited mobile data deals.

TCL takes ‘cautious’ first steps into smartphone space

October 4th, 2019 no comment

Addressing delegates at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, TCL unveiled its first self-branded smartphone, whilst further revealing that it had concrete plans to also produce foldable electronics and 5G phones. TCL has years of experience producing consumer electronics under the BlackBerry and HP Palm brands, but this announcement marked its first serious step into the global smartphone market.

According to Stefan Streit, TCL global marketing manager, the maturation of the IoT – a world in which connected devices are constantly exchanging data – marks a good time for the company to bring something new to the market. He believes that hardware innovation in the smartphone market has stalled in the past decade and TCL can bring “more than another Chinese smartphone” through the introduction of entirely new form factors and features. He acknowledges that this will not happen overnight; rather, it is part of a “very long-term strategy” for the company.


TCL Plex product picture

TCL

Image credit: TCL

The first step in this strategy is the launch of the Plex smartphone, which boasts a large, high-performance LCD display and retails for €329. Jason Gerdon, TCL’s head of global communications and strategy, says that this budget-friendly price point was made possible thanks to years of affordable manufacturing experience, vertical integration in the TCL consumer group and selectivity in deciding which features to optimise. TCL chose to focus on catering to the increasing consumption and generation of media on smartphones, beefing up the display (powered by its own dedicated chipset) and camera set.

“The smartphone market is really, really saturated and if you try to build a one-size-fits-all phone, the reality is that’s not really practical anymore,” said Gerdon. “I liken a smartphone now to a car: everyone has their own tastes, everyone has different budgets, everyone has different needs, so for us it’s about looking at how we can take what we’re experts in and finding that bit of the market that we can address.”

TCL acknowledges that it does not have a sufficiently strong reputation at this point to shift top-range smartphones: “Prices at the thousand-dollar range are brand-related and not our territory”. The first iteration of the Plex – already available in some markets – will not be launched in the UK, with TCL claiming to be unconcerned about selling a large number of handsets. The Plex instead marks the starting point for a portfolio of devices to be rolled out over the coming years. “It’s very important for us that this is a long-term strategy and this is bigger than just a smartphone; this is an entire TCL ecosystem coming to the market,” Streit added.

At next year’s major consumer tech events, TCL are expected to reveal a design for their foldable smartphone, having previously revealed a prototype at IFA (slightly chunky, wide-rimmed and proportioned like a miniature laptop or old-school Nintendo DS). Gerdon believes that despite seeing a “flash in the pan” surrounding foldable electronics in early 2019, the area remains a ‘Wild West’ with almost any form factor being possible. He commented how ensuring that the software running on these devices responds in a meaningful way to folding and bending is just as important as nailing the novel hardware; for example, how should Android respond when you wrap a flexible screen around your wrist?

“If you don’t have a good [software] solution there it doesn’t matter how good the hardware experience is, the user will be disappointed because they feel like this isn’t smart any more. This is a thing where we feel like it takes time and we accept the challenge,” Streit said. TCL confirmed that it is has been working with other parties to experiment with software to suit more unusual foldable electronics, with the possibility of future flexible displays worn on the wrist and multi-hinge devices. The company hopes that these devices could be sold for “much less” than the $2,000+ price point emerging as standard for a foldable phone.

In addition to foldable devices, TCL is in the relatively advanced stages of developing a ‘wearable display’ which conjures up the appearance of a large, bright cinema-style screen held before the eyes without blocking out peripheral vision, allowing for a private yet not totally isolated viewing experience. Streit confirmed that the device had generated interest from the porn industry, inevitably, in addition to other potential business partners in such sectors as fashion and design. Under TCL’s “cautious” approach to rolling out this portfolio of devices and building a reputation as a reliable brand, however, it could be years until this type of display is available to consumers.

“We couldn’t care less about the marketing message of saying ‘We’re first!’. If you’re first to market but the product fails, then what have you achieved?” Gerdon said, diplomatically neglecting to name any competitors perhaps guilty of this.

US-Huawei dispute looms over India’s 5G rollout

October 4th, 2019 no comment

Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chair of India’s third largest mobile carrier, Bharti Airtel, made an appearance at the World Economic Forum’s India summit in New Delhi. Mittal expressed the view that Huawei should play a part in building India’s 5G infrastructure.

“My view is they should be in play, I really feel they should be in play,” he said.

The Indian government is aiming to begin the rollout of a national 5G network by next year.

Huawei is recognised as a world leader in 5G technology. However, its role in the rollout of 5G networks around the world has been challenged by its antagonistic relationship with Washington. The US government has alleged that Huawei has engaged in trade theft, violated sanctions against Iran, and could be used as a tool for espionage by the Chinese government, rendering it a serious national security concern (Huawei has repeatedly denied this). These allegations have led the US government to add Huawei to the ‘Entity List’ (preventing US companies from working with it without a licence) and to place diplomatic pressure on its allies to block Huawei from their next-generation telecommunications infrastructure.

The UK is due to announce its final decision on the extent to which Huawei may be involved in the rollout of 5G infrastructure in autumn. Mobile carriers in the UK and elsewhere have been turning to hardware built by Nokia and Ericsson in anticipation of possible bans on Huawei’s involvement, although concern has been expressed that their technology is not as advanced as Huawei’s.

“Over the last 10 or 12 years [Huawei] has become extremely good with their product, to a point where I can safely say their product […] is significantly superior to Ericsson and Nokia,” Mittal said. Airtel has been using equipment from Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson in its 3G and 4G infrastructure.

Mittal added that India should work with Huawei in part to avoid becoming too dependent on western technology companies, giving the Indian government “very little leverage” on the global stage, and that local companies could benefit from collaboration with Huawei.

Huawei India CEO Jay Chen has previously stated that the company did not face any known issues with the Indian government. It is reported to be among six companies that have submitted proposals to participate in 5G trials.

Mittal’s comments came just a day after Wilbur Ross, the US Secretary of Commerce, reiterated that Huawei poses “a genuine security threat” and that the Indian government should take this seriously: “At the end of the day, obviously, India has to make its own decision, but our concerns are security not protectionism,” Ross said.

Mittal directly criticised Ross, stating: “The US advisory is well taken from our point of view, but Indians will have to decide for themselves, given their relationship with China and the larger context.”

The US blacklisting has overshadowed the launch of Huawei’s latest flagship smartphone range – the Mate 30 range – which use the basic, open-source version of Android and do not contain everyday Google apps like Maps, YouTube or Photos. This week, the go-to workaround for installing Google apps on the Mate 30 phones, which rendered the phones almost indistinguishable from other Android voices, was shut down following the publishing of a post on Medium by security research John Wu.

Hands-on review: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

October 4th, 2019 no comment

Some techy watches focus on activity tracking and analytics, others on smartwatch notifications from phone apps. The Forerunner 245 Music sits somewhere in the middle, offering a bit of both. It also has storage space for up to 500 songs – you can download them from Spotify or Deezer and play directly via Bluetooth headphones, no phone required.

The watch is very comfortable, lightweight and doesn’t feel bulky. It’s sporty-looking but attractive, and feels unisex in terms of size and style. Meanwhile its five-button interface is very easy to get to grips with, to navigate menus on the crisp 240×240 pixel colour screen. The screen is always on, so you’ll never struggle to know the time or see a notification at a glance, but tap a button to backlight it. The backlight stops if you don’t tap another button within eight seconds; perfect for a glance.

Although there’s built-in GPS, there aren’t built-in maps. Spend much more on the Forerunner 945 if you want mini maps displayed on your watch. Instead, the GPS is used to accurately track your distance and speed. The watch also features heart rate and pulse oximetry monitors.

The Forerunner 245 Music includes extra memory capacity for storing up to 500 songs, which you can download from your own digital collection, Deezer or Spotify. Connect via the Garmin Connect app. Bluetooth lets you stream directly to wireless headphones. Alternatively, you can use the watch buttons to control the music stored on your phone.

For £50 less you can get the standard Forerunner 245, which ditches the built-in music storage. We felt that would be fine for most users because it’s hard to imagine not having your phone with you when you run, in which case your music collection is right there anyway.

If you don’t have your phone, though, one of the Forerunner 245 Music’s other cute features is an emergency alert, which is triggered either by pressing a button or by it sensing a fall while you’re out walking, running or cycling. The watch triggers your phone app to send an automated text message, including your name and GPS location, to up to three emergency contacts. You do have 30 seconds in which to cancel this, if you just had a bit of a pratfall and don’t want loved ones to send out a search party.

Smartwatch features like notifications, so you look at your phone screen less, are well implemented. There’s also a button to locate your phone from your watch and vice versa when within Bluetooth range. The chances of you using the watch without having your phone on hand feels low, although streaming music straight from watch to headphones will reduce strain on your phone’s battery life. The watch’s battery life is up to seven days as a smartwatch, up to 24 hours in GPS mode and up to six hours in GPS mode with music.

That said, even if you don’t need the music storage, the Forerunner 245 Music is better looking than the straight 245 thanks to its brighter colours: turquoise, black or white rather than the grey or merlot of the non-Music model. If you don’t want a muted colourway, you will either want the 245 Music or to buy a different wristband (£28). The watch face itself is highly customisable: layout, colours, selection of widgets.

You can even customise which sports and activities are on the watch screen to tailor it to your favourites. We loved the fact that it’s waterproof, so you can time swimming laps as well as activities on dry land. Sleep tracking, heart rate and step count all happen as a matter of course, so you can review them in the app at any time. Activities like yoga and breathing exercises are built-in, too. Use the app to set yourself challenges or compete with others.

The Forerunner 245 Music is easy to use and powerful enough for most users. The main debate isn’t whether to look at rival watches, it’s whether to wait. New models released each year always do more, for less. Want one now? Then this is one of the best mid-priced GPS watches you can buy.

£300 garmin.com

Alternatives

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple’s offering seems like it’s there to make the other smartwatches seem like bargains. Some Series 5 models cost four figures, thanks to new luxe materials and crossovers with brands including Hermès. It’s a joy to use but pricey and you’ll need to charge it every night rather than use it to track your sleep.

From £399 apple.com 

Garmin Forerunner 45

Great features for the price. Includes GPS activity tracking and heart rate monitoring, incident detection, smartphone notifications and more. Battery lasts a life-friendly seven days as a smartwatch, 13 hours in GPS mode. It can’t track swimming and you can’t swap straps.

£170 garmin.com 

Fitbit Versa 2

An attractive smartwatch at a keen price, but the focus is more on smartphone connectivity than sports and fitness sensors. In particular, it uses your phone’s GPS to track location rather than having its own built in GPS. Still, it’s cute and it has built-in Amazon Alexa voice control.

£200 fitbit.com 

Rural UK areas still lacking 4G coverage as 5G rolls out

October 3rd, 2019 no comment

While all major UK carriers are set to introduce 5G by the end of this year, nearly a third of the country is still frequently forced to rely on the 3G network.

5G is set to be launched initially in urban areas, with London and Cardiff being offered four 5G networks, while customers in Bristol, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester will have the choice of three providers.

The new networks may take some time to come to more rural areas of the UK, especially considering that the limited range of the technology renders it less suited for broad coverage than previous generations.

Only 28 per cent of the country will have 5G by the end of 2019, with 72 per cent of the population left without access to fifth-generation connectivity in the near future, uSwitch said.

The digital divide is highlighted by the low 4G availability figures in rural areas, despite 4G having first launched in 2012. The UK’s major cities all have more than 80 per cent 4G availability, according to Opensignal’s data.

Perhaps surprisingly, London is ranked 15th out of 16 cities, with Opensignal users in the capital only able to connect to 4G 84 per cent of the time. Only Edinburgh has more unreliable 4G availability, with Opensignal’s users only able to access 4G 83 per cent of the time. Nottingham was shown to be the best connected with over 88 per cent coverage.

uSwitch says it found that only one in seven phone users (14 per cent) plans to upgrade to 5G in the next year, and only 19 per cent believe it will improve connectivity.

Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com said: “With so many of us completely reliant on our smartphones these days for our news, work, shopping and social media updates, there is little more frustrating than being unable to connect to phone services which we pay for.

“Ofcom reports that 66% of the UK has 4G coverage from all major provider, but more than 23 million people are still facing difficulties connecting to their networks,” he said. “This can sometimes be blamed on network congestion at busy times, but often the capacity simply isn’t there for the numbers of people wanting to access a service they have paid for.”

“The arrival of the next-generation infrastructure should help with some of the problems currently experienced by 4G users, but this will not be an overnight solution, in particular as fewer than one in seven of us is planning to upgrade to 5G in the next year.

Doku also urged mobile operators to not use the launch of 5G to plug holes in existing network coverage.

“The industry cannot use the launch of 5G as a band-aid to cover up the shortcomings of 4G. Providers must work with communities to improve connectivity, especially in rural areas, to prevent millions of people being left stranded on technology two generations out of date,” he said. “Unless networks improve their coverage in rural areas, the risk is that 5G will make the same mistakes as 4G and predominantly serve the cities at the expense of more rural areas of the country.”

On Monday, Chancellor Sajid Javid announced a £5 billion package from the government to support the roll-out of broadband, 5G and other high-speed networks aimed at reaching the hardest-to-reach 20 per cent of the country as part of infrastructure investment designed to help businesses and communities grow.

Government to invest £220m in nuclear fusion plant concept

October 3rd, 2019 no comment

Andrea Leadsom, business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, made the announcement during a visit to the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire – the UK’s world-leading fusion research laboratory.

Fusion research aims to copy the process which powers the Sun – the collision of hydrogen atoms to release large amounts of energy – for a new large-scale source of clean energy on Earth. Researchers around the globe are now developing fusion reactors that can turn this into a commercial technology to help satisfy the world’s increasing demand for energy.


STEP Powerplant illustration

Illustration of Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) fusion power plant

Image credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority

According to Leadsom, STEP will be an innovative plan for a commercially viable fusion power station, offering the realistic prospect of constructing a powerplant by 2040. Also, UKAEA and industry partners, along with academics, aim to pool their expertise to complete the design by 2024.

“This is a bold and ambitious investment in the energy technology of the future,” said Leadsom. “Nuclear fusion has the potential to be an unlimited clean, safe and carbon-free energy source and we want the first commercially viable machine to be in the UK.”

The programme, expected to create 300 jobs directly, builds on UKAEA’s expertise in developing so-called ‘spherical tokamaks’, which are compact and efficient fusion devices that are expected to offer an economical route to commercial fusion power. The new MAST Upgrade spherical tokamak experiment is due to start operations at Culham early in 2020, playing a key role in the STEP design.


Fusion test in MAST experiment

Fusion test in MAST experiment

Image credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority

As well as the creation of new jobs, Leadsom added that the spin-outs from the design work are expected to be on a large-scale, both in terms of synergies with other fusion power plant design activities (such as Europe’s ‘DEMO’ prototype power station) and other high-tech industries.

“This long-term investment will build on the UK’s scientific leadership, driving advancements in materials science, plasma physics and robotics to support new high-tech jobs and exports,” he said. 

Professor Ian Chapman, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority added: “The UK has a proud heritage of pioneering developments in fusion research.

“This announcement demonstrates the UK government’s commitment to translating that research and development (R&D) leadership into a working fusion reactor. We are excited to work with our partners to take the next step towards a fusion-powered future.”

FCC cannot automatically block state net neutrality laws, court rules

October 2nd, 2019 no comment

Net neutrality is the principle that all content on the internet is treated equally. Regulations introduced under President Obama incorporated this principle into law, forbidding internet service providers (ISPs) from speeding up, slowing down or blocking content. This policy followed instances of ISPs attempting to deprioritise or block content produced by rivals; many telecommunications giants also own major content providers.

In December 2017, the FCC – chaired by former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai – voted three-to-two to scrap net neutrality regulations previously introduced by the Obama administration, following a highly divisive consultation period. The order went into effect in 2018, allowing ISPs to tamper with the speed of internet traffic as long as they disclosed it.

Soon after the vote, state lawmakers in New York, Montana, Nebraska, Vermont and Oregon began the process of drawing up their own net neutrality regulations within the parameters set by the FCC. However, in September 2018, Californian lawmakers – who had been working since 2015 to implement the state’s own stricter net neutrality regulations – enshrined in law the state’s new rules. Almost immediately, the Department of Justice and lobbying groups representing ISPs took legal action against California in an attempt to halt the law, insisting that only the FCC has the authority to establish rules for ISPs.

Meanwhile, Mozilla led a group of tech companies, public representatives and campaign groups taking legal action against the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality.

Now, a three-judge panel from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality regulations was permissible, but also ruled that the FCC could not pre-emptively prevent state lawmakers from introducing their own net neutrality regulations. These regulations must instead be challenged on a case-by-case basis.

While this ruling could give other state lawmakers the green light to draft their own net neutrality regulations beyond the parameters set by the FCC, it could have a major impact beyond the realm of net neutrality. Most significantly, the ruling suggests that the federal government does not have automatic precedence over state government when it comes to legislation relating to the behaviour of private companies.

The court also accepted Mozilla’s argument that blocking or slowing down broadband traffic could prove a threat to public safety, such as in the case of Californian firefighters having their Verizon devices slowed down while fighting wildfires in August 2018. This ruling will require the FCC to analyse the public safety implications of ISPs having the right to tamper with traffic speeds.

Despite the FCC’s net neutrality repeal being declared lawful, Judge Patricia Millett described it as “unhinged from the realities of modern broadband service”.

Following the ruling, Chairman Pai wrote on Twitter: “Today’s DC Circuit decision is a big victory for consumers! The court affirmed the FCC’s decision to repeal 1930s utility-style regulation of the internet. A free and open internet is what we have today. A free and open internet is what we’ll continue to have going forward.”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted against the net neutrality repeal, commented that the rollback was “on the wrong side of the American people, the wrong side of history” and that “today we learned in critical respects it was also on the wrong side of the law.”

Mozilla’s chief legal officer Amy Keating said that she was encouraged by the result and that the group would consider its next steps in challenging the repeal.

Researchers develop low-cost, energy efficient alternative to Bitcoin

October 1st, 2019 no comment

According to researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany, Bitcoin as a digital asset is limited by large electricity consumption and has an outsized carbon footprint.

To overcome this issue, Professor Rachid Guerraoui from the School of Computer and Communication Sciences (IC) at Ecole Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has suggested that while a nearly zero-energy alternative sounds too good to be true, it all comes down to our understanding of what makes transactions secure.

The system, which Guerraoui and his team developed in his Distributed Computing Lab (DCL), represents a shift in how we think about cryptocurrencies and digital trust in general. Guerraoui uses the legal metaphor: all players in this new system are “innocent until proven guilty.”

Compared to the tradition Bitcoin model – which relies on solving a difficult problem called “consensus” to guarantee the security of transaction – this newly developed model ensures that everyone in a distributed system must agree on the validity of all transactions to prevent malicious players from cheating, e.g. by spending the same digital tokens twice (a practice known as ‘double-spending’).

To prove their honesty and achieve consensus, players must execute complex – and energy-intensive – computing tasks that are then verified by the other players. However, in this new system, Guerraoui and his colleagues flip the assumption that all players are potential cheaters on its head.

“We take a minimalist approach. We realise that players don’t need to reach consensus; they just need to prevent malicious behaviour when it manifests,” he said. “We assume everyone is honest and if players see someone trying to do something wrong, they ignore that player – and only that player.”

With the consensus requirement removed, the DCL’s new system, dubbed Byzantine Reliable Broadcast, can achieve safe cryptocurrency transactions on a large scale with an energetic cost of virtually zero.

Guerraoui added that such cost is “roughly equivalent to that of exchanging emails” and just a few grams of CO2 compared to an estimated 300kg for a single Bitcoin transaction.

According to the team, this could be a big advantage over Bitcoin, which has been reported to have a global electricity consumption approaching that of Austria and a global carbon footprint comparable to that of Denmark.

The team added that in addition to its lower cost and energy expenditure, the Byzantine Reliable Broadcast system sacrifices nothing in terms of transaction security.

While it has a narrower range of applications than Bitcoin – being suitable only for cryptocurrencies and not for more complex transactions such as smart contracts – the system can manage other forms of currency besides money, he said.

“It could be used for an abstract cryptocurrency for exchanging goods, like bikes in a bike-sharing program, for example,” Guerraoui added.

Guerraoui and his colleagues plan to release this new system as an open-source code for anyone to download and use by the end of 2020.

As well as this new low-cost alternative to Bitcoin, earlier this year social media giant Facebook proposed the launch of a new cryptocurrency, called Libra. However, this potential stablecoin will have to overcome major challenges and controversy before it can become a legitimate cryptocurrency.

UK coal use ‘plummets’ to new record low, according to official statistics

September 27th, 2019 no comment

According to the figures, renewable energy made up 35.5 per cent of the UK’s electricity generation between April and June this year, up nearly 10 per cent from 32.0 per cent in 2018. This increase was helped by the completion of the offshore Beatrice Wind Farm, which houses 84 wind turbines in the North Sea and which powers up to 450,000 homes.

Last year, 33.0 per cent of electricity in the UK was generated from renewable sources. Considerable advances have been made in boosting renewable electricity generation in the UK over the past decade, with more than £52bn invested in renewable energy since 2010 and 99 per cent of the UK’s current solar capacity being brought online this decade.

“The UK is a world leader in renewables and these figures are another step in the right direction on our path towards reaching net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, the minister for energy and clean growth, in a statement. “With more offshore wind projects on the way at record low prices, we are set to benefit from even more clean energy in the years to come.”

During this period, coal made up just 0.6 per cent of electricity generation. The second quarter also saw the UK’s first fortnight entirely free of coal since the 1880s when, in May, the UK went 18 days and 6 hours unsupported by coal. The UK is on track to phrase out coal-fired power generation by 2025.

Despite the positive statistics presented by the government, the majority of electric was generated from fossil fuels during this period, with gas providing just over 50 per cent. Nuclear power met approximately 20 per cent of energy needs. This news also comes in the same week that EDF, the French company building the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, said it needed to add an additional £3bn to the total cost of completing the work due to unforeseen expenses.  

In June, Parliament set into law a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This will require an estimated £1tn effort to boost renewable and other zero-carbon forms of power generation, end gas heating of homes, phase out petrol and diesel cars, among other ambitious steps. The independent Committee on Climate Change advised the government that this target would place the UK in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit average global temperature rises to a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The commitment was introduced to Parliament by outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May and enshrined into law following high-profile action demanding serious action tackling the ‘climate emergency’, with students walking out of classes and Extinction Rebellion activists peacefully occupying some parts of central London.

UK coal use ‘plummets’ to new record low, according to official statistics

September 27th, 2019 no comment

According to the figures, renewable energy made up 35.5 per cent of the UK’s electricity generation between April and June this year, up nearly 10 per cent from 32.0 per cent in 2018. This increase was helped by the completion of the offshore Beatrice Wind Farm, which houses 84 wind turbines in the North Sea and which powers up to 450,000 homes.

Last year, 33.0 per cent of electricity in the UK was generated from renewable sources. Considerable advances have been made in boosting renewable electricity generation in the UK over the past decade, with more than £52bn invested in renewable energy since 2010 and 99 per cent of the UK’s current solar capacity being brought online this decade.

“The UK is a world leader in renewables and these figures are another step in the right direction on our path towards reaching net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, the minister for energy and clean growth, in a statement. “With more offshore wind projects on the way at record low prices, we are set to benefit from even more clean energy in the years to come.”

During this period, coal made up just 0.6 per cent of electricity generation. The second quarter also saw the UK’s first fortnight entirely free of coal since the 1880s when, in May, the UK went 18 days and 6 hours unsupported by coal. The UK is on track to phrase out coal-fired power generation by 2025.

Despite the positive statistics presented by the government, the majority of electric was generated from fossil fuels during this period, with gas providing just over 50 per cent. Nuclear power met approximately 20 per cent of energy needs. This news also comes in the same week that EDF, the French company building the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, said it needed to add an additional £3bn to the total cost of completing the work due to unforeseen expenses.  

In June, Parliament set into law a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This will require an estimated £1tn effort to boost renewable and other zero-carbon forms of power generation, end gas heating of homes, phase out petrol and diesel cars, among other ambitious steps. The independent Committee on Climate Change advised the government that this target would place the UK in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit average global temperature rises to a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The commitment was introduced to Parliament by outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May and enshrined into law following high-profile action demanding serious action tackling the ‘climate emergency’, with students walking out of classes and Extinction Rebellion activists peacefully occupying some parts of central London.