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‘We have never been cleaner or greener’

Britain’s 13 clean energy records put 2017 on course to be the greenest year ever
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
‘We have never been cleaner or greener'

This year Britain has broken 13 different renewable energy records, putting 2017 on track to be the greenest year ever for clean electricity production. Next year is expected to get even greener, with 2018 ushering in a new era of low carbon electricity.

These records are across the clean electricity sector. Highlights of 2017 include the greenest summer ever and the first full coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution, plus record-breaking levels of green power and the plummeting costs of off-shore wind.

Meanwhile, the growing market for electric vehicles means more and more people are able to charge their cars using clean energy.

‘2017 has been an amazing year for renewable electricity in Britain; we have never been cleaner or greener – and we are on course for an even better year in 2018. Climate change is wreaking havoc on our Nature and wildlife, but we are at last facing up to the challenge, turning our backs on polluting fossil fuels and embracing a new clean future. But we need to show more ambition by bringing forward the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars to 2030.’

WWF’s head of energy and climate

A new era

Carbon emissions in the electricity sector have halved since 2012, making Britain’s power system the fourth cleanest in Europe and the seventh cleanest in the world – a 13-place jump up the league board since 2016.

With 2017 smashing all records it is predicted to be the greenest year ever. Public support for renewable electricity production has also hit record highs, with 82% of the UK public supporting green energy.

Duncan Burt, director of the System Operator at National Grid, which has verified the records and is working with WWF on forecasting the carbon intensity of electricity, said, ‘It’s been an exciting year managing the many ‘network firsts’ – from a day where we operated the system with zero coal power, to one where over half of Great Britain’s energy demand was met by renewable generation.

Britain’s 2017 records

Low carbon generation

  • First 24 hour period without coal generation since the Industrial Revolution (21 April)
  • Longest period without coal generation (40 hours 35 minutes, 28-29 October)
  • Greenest summer ever, with almost 52% of our electricity generation from low carbon sources (21 June to 22 September)
  • The lowest amount of carbon produced by electricity production at any one moment (73 gCO2/kWh, 02 October)
  • The largest amount of electricity produced from renewable sources at any one moment (19.2 GW, 21 March)
  • First time ever wind, nuclear and solar were all generating more than both gas and coal combined (07 June)

‘We planned for these changes to the energy landscape, and continue to do so as the energy system evolves. We have worked with the industry to ensure we have the right tools and services in place to continue operating the grid safely and reliably. I’m sure there will be more records broken in 2018 and we’re ready and excited to play our part.’

Director of the System Operator at National Grid

Other records

  • Most electricity production from solar power at any one moment – 8.9 GW, a quarter of Britain’s electricity supply (26 May)
  • Highest percentage of solar produced relative to national demand (26.8%, 02 July)
  • Most wind power produced in a day (281.5GWh, 07 December)
  • Most offshore wind generation at any one moment (4.3 GW, 01 October)
  • Most electricity production from all wind generation at any one moment (12.4 GW, 06 December)
  • Most electricity production from hydropower at any one moment (1.4 GW, 27 February)
  • Record low strike price at the second Contracts for Difference subsidy auction of £57.50/MWh, well below government guarantee for Hinkley C – (11 September)

A year of opportunity

However, more needs to be done to reduce our carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The Clean Growth Strategy in September outlined strong government ambition, but it hasn’t yet been followed with a detailed plan.

The Industrial Strategy and Budget failed to mention the importance of onshore wind and solar, and did not promise any new investment in UK renewables, despite being the cheapest form of power generation.

The UK government admits that it is not yet on track to meet the 4th or 5th Carbon Budget and cannot yet demonstrate how new policy proposals listed in the Clean Growth Strategy get us to the required level of emissions savings in 2032.

‘2017 marked a new era of grid operation. We now have significant volumes of renewable energy on the system which poses an exciting challenge for us in ensuring the supply and demand is matched second by second. As this trend continues, our ability to forecast these patterns is becoming more and more important. We have an expert team of forecasters who monitor a range of data, to forecast just how much electricity will be needed over a set period.’

Director of the System Operator at National Grid

2018 is the year of opportunity for clean energy, and is set to be even greener, but it must be backed up with government action. Greater support needs to be given to renewable energy, to decarbonise our heat and make our buildings use less energy.

On top of this greater ambition is needed to support electric vehicles by ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. This will cut our carbon emissions, clean up our air and bolster the UK economy.

Click here to find out how you can switch to green energy – and save money on your power bills.

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