Low-carbon sources claim majority share in UK energy mix
29th November 2016 | Commercial Energy
For the first time, more than half of the UK’s electricity was generated from low-carbon sources in the third quarter of 2016: this is in contrast to five years ago, when the figure stood at little over 25%. During Q3 2016, coal accounted for just 3% of the UK’s electricity.
The findings, produced by researchers from Imperial College London and commissioned by Drax, analysed publicly available electricity data in the UK, to highlight the “quiet victory” of the low-carbon energy sector.
Nuclear played a pivotal role in the low-carbon shift, accounting for 26% of all generation, whicl the UK’s carbon price floor also played a role in the significant decline of coal. Drax’s chief executive, Andy Koss, said, “This report shows Britain’s energy system is changing dramatically and we are seeing real benefits. Cleaner energy has reached a record high, and carbon emissions from electricity hit a record low.” The trends established between July and September 2016 look likely to continue, the report noted, with 2016 likely to act as the “cleanest year in UK electricity we’ve seen so far, but it won’t be the cleanest year ever.”
The report notes that the renewable energy sector continues to grow, with wind, solar and biomass now comprising 20% of the UK energy market this quarter. Britain now has more than 26GW of wind and solar installed, a six-fold increase compared to 2010: while biomass has increased from an uncharted energy source in 2011 to holding a 2GW share in Q3 2016.
Contributions of individual electricity sources were as follows: wind power comprised 10% of the low-carbon power, solar power was 5%, biomass 4% and hydropower was 1%.
Wind power has seen a 150% increase across a five-year period, thanks to a large surge in offshore projects. Solar is now 10GW across the UK. Figures suggest that biomass has the potential to generate roughly 10% of the UK’s electricity, if existing capacity is upgraded.
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