The first three months of 2020 were a landmark quarter for Great Britain, with renewable providing more power than from any other major power source, providing 45% of all electricity generation, and beating out total fossil fuel generation, including coal and gas..
The milestone moment was highlighted in European power analysts EnAppSys’ latest quarterly energy market report, covering the first three months of 2020.
In total, across the first quarter, renewable energy generated 35.4TWh, accounting for 44.6% of all power generation across Great Britain, followed by 29.1% from gas-fired power plants, 15.3% from nuclear power, 7.3% from imports, and only 3.7% from coal.
This means that not only did renewables generated more electricity than any other power source, but also means in turn that renewables beat out all fossil fuels combined (gas plus coal).
There were a number of factors which helped lead to this milestone moment, with extreme weather conditions across the first three months of the year in Great Britain resulting in consistently high levels of wind generation. Similarly, as with many countries around the world, the spreading coronavirus pandemic led to declining electricity demand in March.
“This represents a significant milestone for Britain’s power industry,” said Paul Verrill, director of EnAppSys.
“Whilst the ‘stay at home’ measures reduced demand in the last weeks of March, which increased the contribution of renewables, wind farms generated significantly more power than gas-fired plants, which historically have been the dominant fuel type for electricity generation in Great Britain for some years now.
“With weather likely to return to more typical patterns in future quarters, the 45% of electricity generation from renewable sources in the quarter is likely to be a temporary high.
However, given recent trends which show that renewables are becoming an increasingly dominant player in Britain’s power mix, the continued build of offshore wind farms and the resurgence in onshore wind should see these levels being achieved more often in the longer term.
“In the shorter term, as coronavirus measures continue, reduced electricity demand will lead to renewables providing a significant contribution to the GB energy mix.”
Despite the contributing factors, this is nevertheless an important milestone for Great Britain’s electricity sector, as its renewable electricity generation was already on track to overtake fossil fuels this year based on historical trends.
Even taking into account the contributing factor of extreme weather conditions, this record nevertheless speaks highly of Great Britain’s wind energy sector, which generated in excess of 10GW for 63% of the quarter, and in excess of 5GW for 85% of the quarter.
At the same time as fossil fuel levels fell beneath that of renewables, nuclear generation was not able to make the most of the conditions.
“Whilst levels of generation from renewables have been on the rise, Britain’s other clean power source – nuclear –generated its smallest overall volume of generation since Q3 2008,” said Verrill, “producing 12.2TWh in the quarter as older reactors saw increased levels of downtime as they move towards the end of their operational life.
Levels of nuclear generation are set to continue to decline as plants close, although this will be offset by increased levels of renewable and gas generation as well as any new nuclear builds.”