Britain's carbon emissions slump during lockdown

4th September 2020

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Britain's carbon emissions from electricity generation plummeted to their lowest in modern times during lockdown to below 10 million tonnes.

An Imperial College London analysis for power company Drax cited reduced demand, boosted renewables and “the near total abandonment of coal“ for the performance in April, May and June. It revealed lockdown measures led to electricity demand falling by 13% in the second quarter, compared with the same period last year, which helped the share of renewables to grow by a third to 40% of the energy mix.

The average carbon emissions fell to a new low of 153 grams per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity consumed over the quarter.

Carbon intensity also plummeted to a new low of 21 grams of per CO2 per KWh in the middle of the Spring Bank Holiday when clear skies and a strong breeze meant wind and solar power dominated the generation mix amid a slump in energy demand triggered by lockdown.

Nuclear and renewables produced 90% of the Britain's electricity, leaving just 2.8GW to come from fossil fuels.

The analysis said the UK electricity during the quarter was 'the cleanest it has ever been“, with May the first ever month when no electricity was generated from coal, and the longest zero-coal run was smashed lasting for 67 straight days. Solar panels also supplied more than 10% of the UK's electricity demand during May.

Imperial College London senior lecturer in sustainable energy Iain Staffell, who was lead author of the analysis, said the past few months have “given the country a glimpse into the future for our power system“.


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