Great Britain’s electricity grid was ‘the greenest it’s ever been’ at 1pm on Monday 5th April, National Grid ESO has announced.
According to the electricity system operator for Great Britain, the carbon intensity of electricity – the measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed – dropped to 39 gCO2, the lowest figure in history.
Sunny spells and blustery conditions, coupled with low demand driven by the Easter holiday, meant renewable sources of power dominated the energy mix over the holiday weekend.
At 1pm wind power made up 39% of the electricity mix, solar power 21%, and nuclear 16% – meaning zero carbon power sources made up almost 80% of the nation’s power.
Fintan Slye, Director at National Grid Electricity System Operator, commented on the announcement: “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.
“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.
“With COP26 later this year records like this couldn’t come at a better time, showing that progress towards greener grids is possible.
“We look forward to sharing our learnings at COP26 and continuing to help system operators across the world exploit the potential of renewable power.
“It’s also great to see more and more people engaging with electricity data via our app.
“Consumers understanding where their electricity comes from, and how their actions can play a role in determining the energy mix, will be crucial as we move towards a zero-carbon grid and our net zero targets.”
The previous record of 46 gCO2/kWh was set on May 24 2020 – part of what was ‘a record-breaking year’ for GB electricity.
During spring 2020, Britain saw its longest run since the industrial revolution generating electricity without using coal, stretching almost 68 days (1,630 hours) between April 10 and June 16.
In total the country was powered coal-free for over 5,147 hours in 2020, compared with 3,666 hours in 2019, 1,856 in 2018 and 624 in 2017.
Coal generated only 1.6% of the electricity mix in 2020, compared with almost 25% five years ago.
The last 18 months has also been record-breaking for renewable power sources. The record for the highest ever level of wind generation was broken on 13th February 21 (17.5GW) – while August 26 last year saw wind contributing its highest ever share to the electricity mix (59.9%).
Solar power, too, set new records for its highest ever level of generation (9.7GW) and its highest share in the mix (34%) – comfortably providing a third of Britain’s electricity supplies on several occasions in May 2020.
While not everyone enjoyed a white Christmas, 2020 did however bring a green Christmas, with reports of the first ever coal-free Christmas day and zero carbon sources powering over half of the country’s electricity demands.