Another milestone for UK energy supply. National Grid report a coal free 24 hours but how does this relate to wider energy trends?
Less than a month after National Grid reported that Transmission system demand for the afternoon dipped below the overnight demand for the first time ever thanks to solar generation, the UK saw it’s first coal free day since the Industrial Revolution.
National Grid Control Room tweeted that Friday was the first continuous 24-hour coal free period for Britain since use of the fossil fuel began, as West Burton 1 power station went offline on Thursday.
“National Grid can confirm that for the past 24 hours, it has supplied GB’s electricity demand without the need for coal generation.”
The rise of gas
This is clearly a milestone event for UK energy supply but what about if we place it in the context of our overall annual energy profile?
Last month BEIS (department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy) released their annual energy report and we provided a useful breakdown of the findings. If we look at electricity generation, the profile for 2015 looks very different 2016. Electricity generation from coal dropped from 22.3% to just 9.1% and it already looks as though 2017 will be even lower. It is hardly surprising that we have already managed to achieve a coal free day.
At the same time there was a large increase in electricity generation from gas compensate for this. The annual figures rose from 29.5% in 2015 to 42.4% in 2016. Whilst gas is obviously preferable to coal in terms of carbon emissions, in an ideal world we would look to move away from gas to a lower carbon UK-based renewable source. We currently import around 38% of gas from European pipelines (comprising of 21% from Norway and 35% from Russia) and 17% from LNG tankers (Source: British Gas)
Meeting National Grid demands
Gas fired power stations have the advantage of being able to provide power rapidly during periods of peak demand. As we move to a more renewables-based supply, energy storage will play a crucial role in ensuring we have enough power as and when it is required. Batteries are well placed to meet the fastest supply demands for National Grid, with a unit switching on in less than 100 milliseconds to provide seamless cover.
In 2016 renewables (excluding nuclear) accounted for a 24.4% share of our electricity generation. Production has increased from around 20 TWh in 2007 to over 80 TWh in 2015 and 2016, with solar now representing 10.3 TWh of generation!
Saturday 25th March marked a historic day for solar energy in the UK. National Grid reported that Transmission system demand for the afternoon dipped below the overnight demand for the first time ever thanks to solar generation. Now the UK has managed its longest ever period of coal-free generation. We still have a way to go in achieving a low-carbon grid but it is an exciting time of change for our UK energy supply!