This weekend’s windy weather set a new renewable power record – and saw some households paid to charge their electric cars to help balance the grid.
Wind farms generated more than 16 gigawatts of power – five times the output expected from the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant – in Britain for the first time on Sunday evening, figures from National Grid revealed.
Over the day as a whole, wind supplied 43.7% of British electricity as Storm Atiyah blew in with strong gusts, while nuclear generated 20.5%, gas supplied 12.8% and biomass 7.9%.
The British grid also got 7.4% of its power from imports, 3.1% from coal and smaller amounts from hydro, solar, storage and other sources.
Industry body RenewableUK’s Luke Clark said: “This new British clean energy record is a great early Christmas present, and shows just how important wind is in an energy system that’s changing rapidly.
“On a dark cold Sunday when we need it most, wind was providing more than 40% of our power, far more than any other source of electricity.
“Wind energy is at the heart of our modern power system, enabling us to take practical action against dangerous climate change”.
The previous wind energy record of 15.32 gigawatts was set on February 8 this year.
Extra power on the network on Sunday meant National Grid paid some households to use electricity, as it was cheaper than paying the operators of wind turbines to stop them generating.
At one point on Sunday night, customers on Octopus Energy’s agile pricing tariff got as much as 5p per unit of power.
Their smart meters would have connected up once prices were low.
“It is remarkable that electric vehicle owners on such tariffs would have been paid to charge their cars,” said Robert Cheesewright, at Smart Energy GB.
“At Octopus we are increasingly seeing those on our agile smart meter tariff tweak their daily routines to push their usage into these cheap, off-peak and renewable-heavy hours,” said Octopus chief executive Greg Jackson.
Experts say that this will become more common as customers charge their cars overnight using cheap, or even free, renewable electricity, and some will sell it back to the grid the next day.