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Renewables reach new heights in the UK energy mix as coal falls below 1%

July, August and September this year saw renewables supplying more than 40% of Britain’s electricity for the first time in the third quarter. Furthermore, CO2 emissions fell below 150 g/kWh  (grams per kilowatt-hour) for the first time on record.

On 19th August, the contribution of renewables reached over 77% which was 5% more than the year’s previous best figure.

July was the lowest-carbon month on record, with the grid averaging 133 g/kWh while September 24th saw a new daily record of just 40 g/kWh.

windmills, clouds, fog

Another record was broken by the fact that in the year to October 2023, coal supplied less than 1% of Britain’s electricity for the first time, falling below hydro in the generation mix.

These figures emerged with publication of the latest quarterly Drax Electric Insights report, compiled by Imperial College London.

The combined output of renewables reached a new high in this quarter too, with wind output up one-fifth on this time last year.  A combination of this and a lower demand meant they supplied over 40% of the country’s power.

The contribution of wind to the renewables mix is expected to increase sharply in the near future, with the first phase of the Dogger Bank wind farm now generating 30% of it’s ultimate capacity.

Things are even sunnier for solar, with the rate of installation having triple in 12 months. More than 4GW of solar capacity is expected to be installed next year and by 2025 total installed capacity is set to grow by more than 60%.

Electricity demand was down 5% on the third quarter in 2022, due to mild weather, and the continuing impact of high prices on consumers.

The flip side of this is, as the report points out, that electricity demand is expected to start growing again and that the projects coming online may not be enough to increase the share of renewables without more renewables being built.

The share of the mix in the last quarter were as follows:

  1. Gas: 32.9%
  2. Wind: 25.9%
  3. Nuclear: 15.*%
  4. Imports: 11.6%
  5. Solar: 6.6%
  6. Biomass: 5.5%
  7. Hydro: 1%
  8. Coal: 0.8%

 

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