A surge in renewable electricity has helped the UK achieve its cleanest power grid on record, with carbon emissions falling to an all-time quarterly low, new analysis by Drax Electric Insights has found.
Renewables supplied more than 40% of Britain’s electricity demand, their highest share for the third quarter of the year on record. This made it the lowest carbon quarter on record, with emissions falling below 150 g/kWh for the first time ever.
Last quarter’s generation mix produced an average of just 143 grams of CO2 per kWh. This is the first time that the milestone of 150 g/kWh has been beaten over a quarter and comes more than three years since this record was last broken, during the COVID lockdowns of early 2020.
The findings are published during the COP28 climate conference in the United Arab Emirates and are part of the latest instalment of the quarterly Drax Electric Insights report. The publication is an independent report by academics from Imperial College London commissioned through Imperial Consultants, linked to Imperial College in London.
Imperial’s Dr Iain Staffell, lead author of the quarterly Drax Electric Insights series, said: “This is a milestone moment in the UK’s decarbonisation journey, getting our carbon emissions down by more than two-thirds in just a decade is a real achievement.
“With our renewable capacity continuing to grow, we should see more clean power records broken in the coming years. However, the long-term picture is more complicated, and it is vital that government continues to explore how to unlock investment in clean energy technologies.
“The rise in electric vehicles and heat pumps will push up electricity demand. We need to build more renewables of all types and kick-start negative emissions technologies, to not just keep pace with demand growth, but continue growing the share of clean energy and keep carbon emissions falling.”
One of the most striking illustrations of Britain’s changing power grid is the decline of coal. New analysis by Drax Electric Insights has found in the 12 months to October 2023, coal supplied less than 1% of Britain’s electricity for the first time ever. The country’s last remaining coal-fired power station will be retired next year as part of the Government’s commitment to end the use of the fuel in electricity production by October 2024.
Britain’s move away from coal took shape over the last decade. A combination of air quality regulations, increasing carbon prices, and converting coal plants to run on biomass meant that Britain’s coal output fell by over 40% per year in the five years to 2020. In contrast, the share of electricity from coal has remained almost static in China, India, and Japan since 2015.