Electricity Generation Tumbles, Renewables Climb In The UK

Electricity generation in the UK

A new report states the total amount of electricity generated in the UK last year dropped to its lowest level in 25 years – and of what was generated, renewable energy accounted for a large chunk.

Analysis from CarbonBrief shows approximately 335TWh of electricity was generated in the UK in 2018, with the last time a level this low seen being in 1994. Of what was generated, an estimated 33% was from renewables – another record high.

While the UK imports energy, that accounted for around 6% of its electricity supplies in 2018. With that taken into account, the amount of electricity supplied in the UK last year was about the same as that seen in 1995.

The population has grown from ~57.87 million in 1994 to 66.2 million in 2018 – so, what’s happened?

A number of potential reasons are put forward by CarbonBrief, including energy efficiency regulations, the uptake of energy-efficient lighting, impacts of rising electricity prices and off-shoring of energy intensive industries as the UK shifts towards a service-led economy.

CarbonBrief notes:

“This shift towards a service-led economy initially saw growing imports of goods and their associated CO2 emissions. However, the outsourcing of UK emissions stopped growing around 2007.”

Electricity Generation In The UK By Source (2018):

  • Gas: 132TWh (39.4% share)
  • Nuclear: 65TWh (19.4% share)
  • Wind Power: 58TWh (17.4% share)
  • Biomass: 36TWh (10.7% share)
  • Coal: 17TWh (5.1% share)
  • Solar Energy: 13TWh (3.8% share)
  • Other: 9TWh (2.8% share)
  • Hydro: 5TWh (1.5% share)

The combined share of UK electricity generation attributed to fossil fuels dropped to 46% in 2018, its lowest level ever, primarily due to another 25% fall in coal. Fossil fuel based generation has dropped close to 33% in just 5 years.

The UK has pledged to phase out all coal fired power plants by 2025. Coal mining in the UK is also declining – and solar power is helping to clean up the mess of some already closed mines.

2018 was certainly another stellar year for wind power. According to RenewableUK, a record amount of offshore wind capacity was installed last year, with more than 2GW becoming operational. This was nearly double the previous annual record of 1.1GW set in 2012.

Other wind energy records also tumbled. A new wind power generation record was set on Tuesday 18th December when 15 gigawatts was recorded the first time between 11.15am and 12.15pm, supplying 34.7% of Britain’s electricity needs. The previous record was set just a month before (14.9GW).

While solar power is still a bit player in the UK, the 13TWh of solar energy sourced electricity generation last year was an 11% increase on 2017.

The full CarbonBrief report can be viewed here.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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