Burning coal to generate electricity in the UK increased by over a third in the first half of 2012, compared with a year earlier, as it became more profitable.
This has caused analysts at Thomson Reuters Point Carbon to forecast that the country's greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector will hit 158.7 million tonnes in 2012, up 14% on the previous year.
Figures released yesterday by the Department of Energy and Climate Change show that coal-fired generation increased by over a third in the first half of 2012, compared with a year earlier. Coal-fired plants produced 67.2 terawatt-hours (TWh), compared to 49.56 TWh the year before.
This trend was helped by a drop of 50% in the price of carbon permits over the year, which meant that it became, and continues to be, at times, almost cheaper to burn coal than gas.
At the same time, the output of nuclear power fell by 5%, or 2.6TWh, due partly to the retirement of plants at Oldbury and Wylfa, Anglesey.
But output from renewable sources increased over this period, with wind power rising 28.3% to 7.17TWh.
The whole of the UK's energy sector emitted 139.8 million tonnes of CO2 in 2011, according to EU data, cuasing it to leap 28 million tonnes above its permitted cap in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, meaning it will have to purchase emission credits.
The high profitability of coal means the UK is becoming more reliant on the dirtiest form of energy production, a trend that has been ongoing for the last few years.