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UK records lowest power grid carbon intensity

On Easter Monday, the UK recorded its lowest level of carbon intensity for electricity use, the National Grid ESO has confirmed.

When the carbon intensity reached its lowest, wind energy accounted for 39% of the electricity mix, with solar and nuclear delivering 21% and 16% respectively

When the carbon intensity reached its lowest, wind energy accounted for 39% of the electricity mix, with solar and nuclear delivering 21% and 16% respectively

At 1pm on Monday (5 April), the carbon intensity of the electricity grid fell to 39 grams of CO2, eclipsing the previous record of 46g of CO2 per KWh, which was set during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in May last year.

“This latest record is another example of how the grid continues to transform at an astonishing rate as we move away from fossil fuel generation and harness the growth of renewable power sources,” said Fintan Slye, National Grid Electricity System Operator’s director.

“It’s an exciting time, and the progress we’re seeing with these records underlines the significant strides we’re taking towards our ambition of being able to operate the system carbon-free by 2025.”

When the carbon intensity reached its lowest, wind energy accounted for 39% of the electricity mix, with solar and nuclear delivering 21% and 16% respectively. Low-carbon sources accounted for almost 80% of Britain’s total power, according to National Grid ESO.

Last year, the UK set numerous records when it came to coal-free generation and low-carbon power provision.

Britain went 55 days without relying on coal for power in the summer of 2020, which was the second-longest stretch on record, behind the 67 days recorded at the start of that year.

In 2020, energy requirements for industrial use and services such as shops and offices were down 8% compared to 2019. As a result, energy demand in the domestic sector climbed by 2%.

Transport also delivered its biggest decline in energy consumption, dropping 28% compared to 2019. This was largely driven by a 60% decline in aviation demand. According to the statistics, transport energy consumption in 2020 is comparable to mid-1980 levels, with diesel and petrol demand also down 17% and 21% respectively.

Despite the economic uncertainties caused by Covid-19, renewable generation reached new heights, contributing to a 42.9% share of generation. This outpaces fossil fuel generation, which contributed 38.5% of generation, a new record low and down by half compared to 2010 levels.

While the pandemic also created low outputs for nuclear, the broader low-carbon generation reached a record 59%. Overall, total final energy consumption was 13% lower compared to 2019.

Britain experienced its first coal-free day following industrialisation in April 2017 and, since then, has broken its coal-free generation records several times. 

Matt Mace

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