Fossil fuel generation has more than halved over the last decade, hitting a new record low in 2020. Just 102.7TWh was produced by coal and gas-fired plants combined last year, compared with 230.5TWh in 2011, according to analysis from EnAppSys.
As carbon intensive electricity generation has fallen away, the renewables sector has become a dominant player in the power mix. In 2020, renewables produced a record 41% (120.3TWh) of Great Britain’s overall electricity output. This is up from 2019, when wind, solar and other renewables contributed 35% of the country's electricity, with generation growing by 15MTh.
Growth in Renewables
This growth was mainly driven by a 25% increase in wind generation, which expanded up to 74TWh. This was largely due to increased deployment of offshore wind, as the UK continues to target the technology.
Wind generation was more than double the second biggest renewable contributor biomass, which produced 28.5TWh. Solar generation did not fare as well, falling from 2019’s total generation of 12TWh to 10TWh in 2020. This was despite record levels of output in Q2, which saw solar hitting a new peak generation record of 9.68GW in April for example.
However, wind, solar and hydro still collectively almost caught up to gas generation in 2020, with 91.6TWh generated by renewables versus 95.7TWh by gas-fired plants. When biomass is added in renewables easily overtake gas generation, which contributed 32.9% of the energy mix, or 95.7TWh. The gas fleet’s generation fell by 16% from 2019.
Nuclear - the third biggest source of generation - saw little change from 2019 levels, generating 50TWh and contributing 17.1% overall.
Paul Verrill, director of EnAppSys, said that the record renewable generation together with lower demand allowed for the lowest levels of conventional generation in recent history.
Greenest Year Ever
EnAppSys’s analysis for 2020 follows National Grid ESO hailing the year as its greenest ever within its statistics for the year, pointing to record wind and solar generation, along with the remarkable coal-free period. 2020 was a record-breaking year, with wind generation, solar, and coal-free records - renewable generation allowed for a longer coal-free period in the country than ever seen before, with Britain running for nearly 68 days without the fossil fuel between 10 April and 16 June 2020 - helping to make it the greenest year ever for Great Britain’s electricity network.
“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,” commented Rob Rome, interim head of national control at National Grid ESO.