Report: Low-Carbon Now Dominates UK Power System

World | Renewable Energy

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More than half of the electricity generated in the UK now comes from low carbon sources such as wind, solar, nuclear energy and biomass, according to a new study which underlines the stunning transformation taking place in the UK energy sector.

The study, released today by Imperial College London in collaboration with Drax, shows that in the third quarter of this year wind, hydro, nuclear, biomass, solar and low carbon electricity imports from France together delivered 50.2 per cent of Britain’s electricity.

That is more than double the level in 2010, when just 20 per cent of electricity came from low carbon sources. Since then the volume of alternative generation sources has exploded in the UK: wind capacity has grown sixfold to hit 26GW and biomass has jumped from almost nothing to 2GW of capacity.

The study also shows the marked decline in coal-fired electricity generation in the UK, which delivered just three per cent of Britain’s electricity last quarter, down from 38 per cent in 2012. Over the last 12 months 3.2GW of new wind and solar capacity has come online in the UK grid, while a quarter of the country’s coal capacity has shut down.

All this has led to an impressive drop in emissions. Over the last four years emissions from electricity production have fallen a staggering 56 per cent, plummeting by a third in the last 12 months alone, the report notes.

“This report shows Britain’s energy system is changing dramatically and we are seeing real benefits,” Drax power chief executive Andy Koss said in a statement. “Cleaner energy has reached a record high, and carbon emissions from electricity hit a record low.”

Nuclear energy provided the highest proportion of low carbon power, delivering 26 per cent of electricity over the period, followed by onshore and offshore wind which delivered 10 per cent. Solar provided five per cent and biomass delivered four per cent of the power mix. Low-carbon imports from France added an extra four per cent, and hydro one per cent.

Current government predictions see the country’s remaining coal-fired power plants closing by 2022. It has promised to shut down all unabated coal plants by 2025 at the latest.