Carbon emissions from Great Britain’s power grid have hit their lowest ever levels this past weekend, thanks to a decrease in demand and a big increase in renewable energy output, and as wholesale power prices also dropped into negative territory.
According to new statistics published by Drax Electric Insights – which sources data from Elexon, the UK National Grid, and Sheffield Solar – this past Saturday, May 23, resulted in the lowest-carbon day in the history of Great Britain’s electricity grid (as distinct from the United Kingdom, as Northern Ireland’s electricity grid is separate).
Average carbon intensity for Saturday fell to an astonishing low of 61 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour (g CO2/kWh) – smashing the previous record low of 76g CO2/kWh which was recorded back on August 17, 2019.
During Saturday, carbon intensity fell to its lowest ever level of 18g CO2/kWh for more than an hour – as compared to the previous record carbon intensity low of 43g CO2/kWh set back in August 2019.
Unsurprisingly, as carbon emissions and intensity plummeted, renewable energy supply soared, and at its height hit 65% of the country’s total demand.
On average, for Saturday, renewables accounted for 59.43%, with wind energy unsurprisingly accounting for the lion’s share with 45.99% of supply.
Solar also had a strong day providing an average of 8.31% of total supply with several hours providing over 20% of supply.
Dr Iain Staffell, who is a lecturer in sustainable energy at Imperial College London whose team leads Drax’s regular Electric Insights report series, took to Twitter to crow about the news:
Similarly, Luke Clark, director of strategic communications at the UK’s wind and wave renewable trade association, RenewableUK, also praised the news on Twitter:
At the same time, wholesale power prices fell into negatives, which meant that some British electricity customers who are on flexible electricity tariffs were in fact paid to use electricity at times of least demand so as to soak up oversupply.
“Across the whole 24-hour period, the average day-ahead wholesale price was negative £9.92 per MWh – more than twice as low as the previous record, set on Sunday 8 December 2019, of negative £4.62/MWh,” Drax analysis stated. “In the early hours of Friday morning, the day-ahead price was as low as negative £52.03 per MWh.”
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