Great Britain’s electricity grid was the greenest it’s ever been on Easter Monday, according to the system operator, National Grid ESO, as it shattered the previous record set last May during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The carbon intensity of electricity – the measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed – on Great Britain’s electricity grid fell to 39gCO2 at 1pm on Monday, April 5, thanks to a combination of sunny spells and blustery conditions, coupled with low Easter holiday electricity demand, which allowed renewable energy sources to dominate the energy mix over the holiday weekend.
According to National Grid ESO, at 1pm on Monday wind power accounted for 39% of the electricity mix, solar power 21%, and nuclear power 16%, resulting in zero carbon power sources accounting for almost 80% of Great Britain’s power.
The new carbon intensity record smashed the previous record of 46gCO2/kWh set on May 24, 2020.
Though the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic had a very real impact on electricity demand and usage during 2020, the year was nevertheless a record-breaking year for electricity generation across Great Britain.
During the first half of 2020, Great Britain – as distinct from the United Kingdom, as Great Britain’s electricity grid does not include Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland – went almost 68 days without using coal, the longest run of electricity generation without coal since the industrial revolution.
Across the whole year, Great Britain was coal-free for over 5,147 hours – compared to 3,666 hours in 2019, 1,856 in 2018, and only 624 in 2017. Overall, coal generated only 1.6% of the electricity mix in 2020 – compared with almost 25% five years ago.
The records haven’t stopped with 2020, however, with the highest ever level of wind generation being recorded on February 13 at 17.5GW. Wind also had a good 2020, though, and on August 26 it contributed its highest ever share to the electricity mix of 59.9%.
Solar, too, had a good 2020, recording its highest ever level of generation with 9.7GW and its highest share of the power mix with 34%, easily accounting for a third of Britain’s electricity supplies on several occasions during May 2020.