New record for green power as electricity generation drops

Offshore wind.
A jack-up rig stands near to Teesside Offshore Wind Farm, operated by EDF Energy Renewables Ltd., in Hartlepool, U.K., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. The wind farm has a capacity of 62.1 megawatts. Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

A third of the UK’s electricity came from renewables in 2018 as overall power generation fell to its lowest levels since 1994, analysis shows.

Wind accounted for 17% of the total power generated last year, while solar contributed 4% and burning plant material or biomass for electricity produced 11%, the analysis by climate and energy website Carbon Brief reveals.

With nuclear power supplying just under a fifth of the total and renewables overall generating a record 33%, low carbon power sources accounted for more than half (53%) of UK electricity generation in 2018.

Despite fears of a rebound in burning coal for power in the face of high wholesale gas prices, the most polluting fossil fuel saw further declines in 2018, down to a record low of just 5% of the total.

Gas was also down, to 39%, as fossil fuels fell to their lowest ever share of the mix, according to the Carbon Brief analysis which is based on data from the Business Department, BM Reports and Sheffield Solar.

Overall electricity generation was an estimated 335 terrawatt hours, the lowest level since 1994 and down 16% from its peak in 2005.

The amount of electricity generated per person has fallen to its lowest levels since 1984, and is down almost a quarter (24%) since 2005.

If the amount of power generated per person had stayed at 2005 levels, as the population grew, the UK would need the equivalent of four extra Hinkley Point C nuclear power plants, the analysis suggests.

The reduction in UK electricity generation is down to various factors, including more energy efficient appliances and lighting and a shift away from energy-intensive industry to high-value manufacturing and services.

The figures do not include electricity imports, which are at a similar level to what they were in the 1990s, but are higher than in the 2000s, Carbon Brief said.