UK hits trillion-kWh renewable electricity milestone

Pictured: Hornsea One. Image: Orsted

That is according to new official statistics posted on Monday (15 May) by the National Grid’s analytics team.

National Grid has kept records of the UK’s electricity generation mix since 1970, when renewables represented just under 2% of the total. The majority of this was attributable to pumped hydro.

Last month, 46% of Britain’s electricity generation was attributable to zero-carbon sources, a term used to describe both nuclear and renewables. Wind was the biggest contributor.

April notably set a new record for the lowest carbon intensity of electricity generation; a rate of 33g of CO2e per kWh was recorded on Monday `10 April. On this date, just 0.1% of the UK’s electricity was generated from coal. The West Burton A coal power plant in Nottinghamshire closed at the end of March, leaving just two coal plants in operation, in County Antrim (Kilroot) and Nottinghamshire (Ratcliffe on Soar). They will both close before October 2024.

National Grid is forecasting that it will take the UK just five years to generate an additional trillion kWh of renewable electricity. But National Grid Ventures’ interim president Ben Wilson noted that the UK will need the right policy frameworks to make this happen.

The Business and Trade Committee warned last month that the UK is likely to fail to end unabated fossil fuel electricity generation by 2035 without urgent intervention. Committee members heard evidence of investors being deterred by long waits for grid connections and a lack of clarity over long-term incentives.

Wilson concluded: “Accelerating the delivery of renewable energy must continue to be a priority for a cleaner, more secure and more affordable energy future for everyone… we are committed to working with government and our partners to make it a reality.”

The news from National Grid comes shortly after it was confirmed that Britain’s wind farms generated more electricity than gas for the first quarter of 2023, for the first time. Researchers at Imperial College London found that wind accounted for 32.4% of the UK’s electricity generation mix during this period, while gas contributed 31.7%.

Gas’s contribution was down 5% year-on-year while wind’s was up 3%, largely due to offshore arrays.

“There are still many hurdles to reaching a completely fossil fuel-free grid”, said Dr Iain Staffell, who led the research.  “But wind out supplying gas for the first time is a genuine milestone event, and shows what can be achieved when governments create a good environment for investors in clean technology.”

Related news: Recapping the energy transition success stories of the week, including Australia’s $2bn green hydrogen package


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