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50% of Britain’s Power In 2017 ‘From Low Carbon Sources’

Posted: 28/02/2018

A new paper from Imperial College London and Drax highlighted that half of the power produced in Britain last year came from low carbon sources, with wind farms enjoying a banner year and coal and gas output falling by a tenth.

According to the Electric Insights report, the renewable electricity produced last year could actually have powered the entire country in 1958! Back then, 52 million people used 91 TWh of electricity, which could have been powered by the 96 TWh of renewable power produced in 2017.

With regards to grid electricity supplied in 2017, wind produced 15 per cent of the UK’s power, up from the ten per cent in 2016. Some 25 per cent came from biomass, hydro, wind and solar. Wind generation rose by 45 per cent between 2016 and 2017, with completion of numerous off and onshore wind farms, and higher wind speeds, helping to deliver record-breaking wind output over the 12 month period.

Imperial College London’s Dr Iain Staffell, commented: “Generation from coal continues to fall and is now the preserve of colder months as opposed to being the mainstay of generation as it was in 1958.

“Sixty years ago, the power system emitted 93 million tonnes of CO2; in 2017 renewables managed to produce the same amount of electricity by emitting just three million tonnes. The share of fossil fuels on the system has fallen from 80 per cent to 50 per cent since 2010 and the effect that shift in the balance of power is having in terms of lowering our carbon emissions is striking.”

Drax itself is the biggest single site renewable generator in the UK, as well as the power station being the biggest decarbonisation project in Europe. Half the power station in North Yorkshire has been upgraded from coal to use sustainable biomass and there are plans in place to convert another generating unit this year.

The company’s CEO, Andy Koss, made further comments on the report, saying that it shows what good progress has been made with regards to the decarbonisation of the energy sector. He did add, however, that as more renewables come onto the system and as the share of fossil fuels drops, it’s important to think about how to maintain secure and stable power supplies.

This comes after a report from University College London called on the government to increase investment in onshore wind and similar in a bid to really prioritise low-cost renewable energy.

Published on behalf of the Aldersgate Group, the paper also recommended that the UK leaves the EU in a way that would properly support increased interconnection with power grids and electricity to ensure continued trade with Europe.

Investment barriers to mature renewable projects should also be removed because – as long as political risks are minimised – onshore wind technologies and similar do not need subsidies any more. The carbon price escalator should also be resumed, brought back in once coal is retired from the system in the 2020s.

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