New records for UK renewables

Windy and sunny weather has helped the UK set new records for renewable energy and low level carbon emissions over the past week. Electricity generated by wind, solar, hydro and biomass powered turbines reached a peak of 19.3GW at lunchtime last Wednesday, accounting for over half the demand at the time, according to data from Elexon and National Grid, compiled and released by Drax.

The data shows that wind farms generated 9.5GW (26.7% of the total supply) and solar panels produced 7.6GW (21.5%), with a further 2GW (5.7%) coming from biomass and 200MW (0.5%) from hydropower.

The total demand was 35.4GW. None of this was met by coal-fired power stations. Gas fuelled power stations provided 7.4GW. With nuclear power supplying 8.2GW of the total and a relatively small amount (600MW) topping up to meet the total demand from imports and storage, the UK also recorded a record low for carbon emissions from electricity generation. This amounted to just 89kg CO2 per kWh, getting below the 'magic number' target of 90kg/kWh for the first time, according to National Grid, which also said that wind, solar and nuclear had supplied more than gas and coal combined for the first time.

All of these figures are highly variable, however. For comparison, five days later, at 9pm on Monday this week, solar and wind power were generating just 5GW between them. Biomass and hydropower were generating marginally more than last Wednesday, but even with more from nuclear and imports, the variability of wind and solar meant that gas supply was cranked up to 12.8GW and coal called upon for 800MW to answer reduced demand for 29.4GW of electricity.