What did the UK’s electricity generation mix look like in 2022?
The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has posted data on the electricity mix for the entirety of 2022, confirming a record year for wind generation in many respects.
The data confirms that, collectively, renewable and nuclear energy generation arrays accounted for more than 48.5% of all electricity generated in Great Britain during 2022. This is the second-highest proportion on record, with only 2020 topping it.
Gas remained the main single source of electricity generation during the year, nonetheless. Gas-fired power plants accounted for 38.5% of generation. However, coal’s share decreased to 1.5%. For context, its share in 2012 was 43%.
Wind accounted for 26.8% of the generation mix in 2022. The ESO has confirmed that last year was the first year in which wind arrays provided more than 20GW of electricity to the nation within a single day, on 3 November 2022. The record was broken again, with 20.918GW from wind, on 30 December 2022.
Here is the National Grid ESO’s breakdown of the 2022 electricity generation mix by technology:
- Gas: 38.5%
- Wind: 26.8%
- Nuclear: 15.5%
- Biomass: 5.2%
- Coal: 1.5%
- Solar: 4.4%
- Imports (mixed source): 5.5%
- Hydro: 1.8%
- Energy storage: 0.9%
Winds of change?
The UK Government had been aiming for the nation to host 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 under plans introduced by Boris Johnson in 2020. This target was increased to 50GW last April, through the Energy Security Strategy.
While policymakers have been betting big on offshore wind, partly because arrays can be made bigger than they can be on land, 2022 was another year of slow progress for onshore wind development.
Onshore wind development in England was effectively banned under David Cameron in 2016. The Government did add onshore wind back into the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction rounds’ eligibility criteria in 2020 under Johnson but planning restrictions were kept in place.
Planning rules are set to be changed this year through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Late last year, Simon Clarke MP tabled an amendment to the Bill, adding a clause that would lift planning restrictions for onshore wind in areas where communities have voiced support for development. Dozens of rebel conservatives backed the amendment and it was passed. The Bill is currently passing through the House of Lords.
MPs on the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) began the new year with a new briefing, setting out recommendations for accelerating the energy transition. They urged Rishi Sunak and his Cabinet to introduce more dedicated interventions to scale onshore wind and tidal energy. The report also calls for a national ‘war effort’ to improve energy efficiency.
As already noted, the last quarter of 2022 saw the UK’s wind generation record broken and then broken again. The National Grid ESO has also set out several other record-breaking events that will be cause for celebration in the clean power space.
It has confirmed that the carbon intensity of the electricity generation mix in February 2022 was the lowest since records began. This is partly attributable to the face that weather conditions in February were the most favorable for wind generation out of all 12 months in 2022. The carbon intensity of the generation mix in February was 126 grams of CO2 equivalent per kWh.
The carbon intensity of the generation mix across the whole of 2022 averaged 182 grams of CO2 equivalent per kWh. This is the second-lowest on record; again, 2020 continues to hold the crown.
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