UK tops global decarbonisation ranking

30th November 2020

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  • UK government


Stephen Mortimer

The UK has decarbonised its electricity grid faster than other any other major economy over the last decade, according to a new global ranking from Drax Electric Insights.

The findings show that renewable power has grown six-fold in the UK over the last 10 years, which has helped slash the electricity system's carbon intensity by 58%.

This is double the reduction seen in any of the other countries studied, with the proportion of power generated from coal falling from 30% to just 2%, and the supply from renewables rising from 8% to 42%.

The findings also show that British households have each reduced their carbon emissions by three-quarters of a tonne per year, which is roughly equivalent to the CO2 generated by a family of four taking a return flight from the UK to Spain.

“As the world marks five years since the Paris Agreement the UK offers an example of how fast energy transitions can be made,“ said Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, which carried out the analysis for Drax

“Over the last decade the country has transformed itself from relying on coal to keep the lights on, to having its first coal-free month since the industrial revolution.

“While this progress in the power sector has been rapid, we now need to decarbonise wider society by using electricity to heat our homes and power our cars to achieve net zero by 2050.“

The UK's power system is set to grow even greener after the prime minister set a new target of installing 40GW of offshore wind by 2030.

However, Drax warned that upwards of 37TWh of excess electricity will be generated annually amid diverging weather and demand by 2030, with wind and solar power unable to provide all the services needed to stabilise the system and maintain secure supplies.

It said that one solution is to expand storage capacity by increasing the role pumped hydro storage plays in storing excess power when supply outstrips demand, and then to rapidly plug gaps when the wind is not blowing, to provide fast, flexible power and greater system stability.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, added: “By embracing bioenergy with carbon capture and storage and flexible technologies liked pumped hydro storage, we will enable the UK's power system to evolve and provide the secure and sustainable electricity supplies a zero-carbon economy needs.“

Image credit: iStock


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