More than half of UK electricity sourced from low-carbon sources

By Erin Voegele | November 17, 2016

A recent report authored by researchers from Imperial College London, in collaboration with Drax, determined that for the first time ever more than half of Britain’s electricity came from low-carbon sources during the third quarter.

According to the report, titled the “Drax Electric Insights Report,” nuclear energy provided 26 percent of the U.K.’s electricity during the third quarter, with on-shore and off-shore wind providing 10 percent, solar providing 5 percent and biomass providing 4 percent. In addition, low-carbon energy imports from France provided 4 percent and hydro provided 1 percent. In total 50.2 percent of the U.K.’s energy came from low-carbon sources, up from 20 percent in 2010. In total, the U.K. imported 7 percent of its electricity during the quarter.

The report notes that coal provided only 4 percent of U.K. electricity during the quarter, a smaller share than biomass, wind, and solar. During the same period four years ago, coal provided 38 percent of Britain’s electricity.

Since 2010, biomass capacity in the U.K. has increased by approximately 16 fold, reaching 2 GW from nearly zero. During the same time, coal-fired generation has dropped 88 percent.

The report indicates Britain’s energy was completely coal-free for nearly 6 days during the third quarter, noting that the country celebrated its first completely coal-free electricity day the previous quarter, on May 5. According to the report, May 5 marked the first time since 1881 that Britain burnt no coal to produce electricity.

“This report shows Britain’s energy system is changing dramatically and we are seeing real benefits,” said Andy Koss, CEO of Drax Power. “Cleaner energy has reached a record high, and carbon emissions from electricity hit a record low. We can also see the crucial role that policy levers like the Carbon Price Floor play.”

“But there is more to do to make Britain truly low carbon,” Koss continued. “Additional reliable, affordable, clean energy is needed on the system, along with a focus of getting the balance right. More intermittent renewables like wind and solar are crucial but they will require more flexible back up, like biomass, to provide homes and business with electricity on demand.”

The Drax Electric Insights Report is designed to shed light on the dramatic impact of unprecedented changes taking place in the U.K. energy sector, including the government’s commitment to shift away from coal by 2025, obligations to decarbonize, policy levels, commitments to new nuclear, and prices reaching new highs and new lows.

The report, which will be published once per quarter, features data produced by National Grid and Elexon. It will focus on data charting supply and demand, prices, emissions, and the performance of the various generation technologies and the networks that connect them, providing new empirical evidence to contribute to the U.K. energy debate. The report can be downloaded from an interactive website