Wind overtakes water in Britain's green energy mix

LONDON (Reuters) - Wind supplied more of Britain’s electricity that water for the first time last year, while power generators preferred gas to coal and nuclear output continued to decline, according to new government data.

Five percent of Britain’s electricity came from renewable sources in 2007, up from 4.6 percent in 2006, as more wind farms started feeding clean electricity into the network, helping cut the country’s carbon emissions.

“For the first time generation from wind exceeded generation from hydro and became the largest renewables technology in terms of electricity generated,” the industry ministry said in its annual energy statistics published on Thursday.

Britain’s gas production fell for the seventh consecutive year, down 10 percent in 2007, and imports exceeded exports for the third year in a row.

Despite rising gas prices in the latter half of last year, gas was still more profitable than coal for power generators to burn and its share of Britain’s supply jumped from 36 percent in 2006 to 43 percent, the government said.

Domestic coal production fell 6 percent, while imports fell by 13 percent from a record high in 2006, because of lower demand from electricity generators.

Nuclear power’s contribution to Britain’s power supply shrank to 15 percent, its lowest level since 1987, because of lengthy maintenance and repair work at many of the country’s ageing nuclear power plants.

A 27-percent increase in installed wind power capacity helped boost green energy output and make up for some of the loss in carbon-free electricity from the nuclear sector.

Overall power supply decreased by 1.1 percent to 402 TWh, the first year-on-year falls since 1997, with net imports diving by nearly a third as Britain exported more electricity than in 2006 and imported less.

Power consumption by British industry fell by 0.5 percent while households used 1.2 percent less electricity.

(Editing by Anthony Barker)

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