Report: Fossil fuel use falls in UK electric sector

By Erin Voegele | June 01, 2020

U.K. electricity generation from fossil fuels fell by 25 percent between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020—the largest fall on record, according to data released by Imperial College London in the Drax Electric Insights report for the first quarter.

The report notes that 2020 has gotten off to a pretty poor start. Britain was battered by storms in January and February, and unprecedented rainfall flooded thousands of homes. In March, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact the country. COVID-19 impacts, including stay-at-home orders and businesses closures, caused electricity demand fall to levels not seen since the 1980s while power prices fell to a 12-year low. The report estimates electricity consumption on weekdays fell 13 percent, due largely to closures of schools and workplaces. Households, however, have increased power consumption by as much as a third.

Also during the first quarter, the U.K. moved closer to phasing out coal-fired power generation. Two coal plants retired at the end of the quarter after burning their remaining stockpiles of fuel. The report notes that only three coal-fired power stations remain in existence on the mainland. The coal units at Drax Power Station are expected to cease operating in March 2021. The other stations may also retired before the government’s 2025 deadline. As of the day the report was published, Britain had hone 35 days without coal-fired generation.

Electricity generation from fossil fuels fell by 25 percent when compared to the same period of 2019, the largest fall on record. As a result, emissions were down 20 percent when compared to the first quarter of last year, at an average of 173 grams per kilowatt hour (g/kWh).  

Approximately 76.3 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity was supplied in the U.K. during the first quarter. Biomass accounted for 6.7 percent of that volume. The report indicates there was approximately 3.2 gigawatts (GW) of installed biomass capacity in place in Britain in the first quarter, unchanged from the same period of 2019. Generation from biomass reached 5.1 TWh, up 1 percent. The average utilization/capacity factor for biomass during the period was 69 percent, with a maximum utilization/capacity factor of 100 percent.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the Drax website