Electricity Output In UK At Lowest Levels Since 1994
By Sofy Robertson
The output of power stations in the UK in 2018 fell to levels last recorded almost a quarter of a century ago with renewables achieving a record share of Britain’s power supply.
Despite eight million people living in the UK in 2018, electricity generation was the lowest since 1994. Analysts said the figures were a sign of increasingly efficient use of energy as well as the country’s changing economy.
Carbon Brief, the UK website that analysed the government and industry data, found that 335-terrawatt hours were generated last year by power plants, which is down 1% on 2017. Since 2005, the level has fallen by 16%. This is the equivalent of two and a half Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations.
Simon Evans, policy editor at Carbon Brief, explained:
“It could be a combination of more efficient appliances, energy-saving lightbulbs and, more recently, LEDs. Then there’s supermarkets installing better fridges, industry using more efficient pumps. Across all of those businesses, efficiency will have been going up. And of course there’s the changing nature of industry in the UK.” (BBC)
Previous research by the government’s climate change advisers found that more energy efficient appliances helped save the average household £290 per year between 2008 and 2017.
Separate data from the National Grid showed that 2018 was the greenest year to date for electricity generation with more power sourced from renewables and less from coal. In addition, the carbon intensity from electricity generation was down 6.8% last year and has more than halved since 2013.
Carbon Brief’s analysis found that renewable sources including biomass, hydro, solar and wind power supplied a record-breaking 33% of the UK’s electricity in 2018, up from 2017’s 29%. This has shown a drastic increase from 2009 when renewables made up just 6.7% of the UK’s energy supply.
2018’s green energy was boosted primarily by new windfarms connecting to the grid, as well as new biomass plants, including the conversion of former coal plants in North Yorkshire and Northumberland.
The coal-driven output was down 25% for 2018, despite warnings of a coal comeback driven by high gas prices. Nuclear power also had a weak year, with generation down 8% largely due to ageing reactors being taken offline for essential safety checks. Gas remained the top source of electricity supplies, though it too fell by 4%.