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EnAppSys: UK electricity generation during 2015

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World Coal,

The UK’s electricity generating capacity has continued to reduce its reliance on coal-fired generation. Coal’s input to the UK’s electricity generation declined to its lowest level since 1951 – a period when overall power generation was much lower.

EnAppSys, an independent energy specialist company that provides electricity and energy market data, systems and consultancy services, has released a report on Great Britain’s (GB) electricity generation (read the full report here), which shows during 2015, total generation from coal fired-power plants fell to 74.5 TWh (8.5 GW) during the year, representing 24% of total generation (down from 31% in 2014).

Following this major decline, coal was displaced as the primary source of electricity by gas-fired power plants, which contributed 84.4 TWh (9.6 GW) of electricity, representing 27.2% of overall generation.

Overall, during 2015 Britain’s fuel mix was provided by CCGT (gas) plants (at 27.2%), coal (24%), nuclear (21.1%), renewables (21.0%) and interconnectors (6.7%).

A key highlight from the report was the continuing growth in output from renewable sources. Wind power was a dominant contributor with 32.4 TWh, which was fuelled by an increasing contribution from offshore wind farms.

The rush to meet subsidy deadlines saw solar PV also increase its contribution significantly to 7.1 TWh, and biomass also saw further growth, with the continuing conversion of units at Drax from coal.

As a result, renewables generated almost as much power as nuclear sources during 2015. This reduced fossil fuels total share of power generation to just over 51% during 2015. It is now responsible for around half of total power generation, compared to over 75% only five years ago. Fossil fuel generation has fallen by 39% over the past five years, from 259.8 TWh to 158.8 TWh.

This reduced share for fossils fuels is estimated to reduce the country’s carbon emissions (excluding interconnector supplies) from electricity generation to around 88.7 million t, compared to an estimated 106 million t in 2014.

The 310.58 TWh total of electricity generated during 2015 (representing an average daily demand of 34 GW) represents a near 9% fall over the last five years from 340.3 TWh (37.25GW) in 2010.

Paul Verrill, Director of EnAppSys, said: “The ongoing closure of coal plants and the Government’s stance against them perhaps marks the end of an era for coal plants, which have dominated the GB power market since its inception, with coal-fired generation at its lowest level since 1951.”

“Since 1948, coal-fired power plants have provided over half of the country’s electricity generation, but this picture is now changing rapidly with the growing emergence of wind, solar and biomass. Renewable sources now provide almost as much electricity as nuclear plants and are expected to overtake them during 2016 as Wylfa nuclear plant closes and as new wind and solar projects come on stream.”

Verrill continued: “These changes in generation have also had an impact on supply margins and prices. Although the greater reliance on renewables has caused occasional tight supply and demand margins, leading to some rare but spectacular balancing price spikes, the overall impact on the grid has been manageable.”

“GB network transmission restrictions have meant that in 2015 the UK missed opportunities to further reduce carbon emissions as renewable generation has been curtailed particularly through December, but 2016 sees increased transmission capacity in the North of Scotland and construction ongoing on the Western link between the South of Scotland and England.”

“With the UK’s carbon floor price causing profit margins at coal plants to decline despite low coal fuel costs, the GB electricity fuel mix looks set to continue with high levels of renewable generation and declining gas and nuclear; with gas and imports from the continent helping balance any differences between supply and demand,” concluded Verrill.

Edited from press release by Harleigh Hobbs

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