Q1 2018: The quarter’s headlines

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by Dr Iain Staffell – Imperial College London 

This quarter, Britain’s energy system was tested by the Beast from the East: winds from Siberia that delivered the coldest March day on record. 

 Article 1 summarises the impacts this weather had on the electricity system, and Article 2 looks at events on the gas network. The need for heating drove a huge spike in gas demand, National Grid issued an emergency warning as supplies failed to keep up with demand, and gas storage fell to its lowest levels after Britain’s biggest storage site was retired.

The events of March are an interesting glimpse at the future electricity system’s resilience.  Article 3 looks at how Britain’s interconnectors helped or hindered during the time of stress, and whether the system could have coped without coal. 

Britain’s wind farms had another record-breaking quarter, exceeding the output of nuclear reactors for the first time (see Article 4). Higher wind speeds and new capacity are two reasons that were explored in last quarter’s report. Now, Article 5 shows that the amount of wind energy wasted due to grid constraints has fallen by two-thirds, helping to boost output further. 

Together, these events mean that whilst gross electricity demand was up 2% on this quarter last year, the demand net of renewables (which had to be met by conventional power stations) was 4% lower. Despite the strong switch toward coal in March, coal output over the quarter was one-sixth lower than in Q1 2017, and consequently carbon emissions were 7% lower.  Article 6 finishes with statistics on the capacity and production for the quarter. 

Daily average temperature and generation mix over the quarter 

Authors: Dr Iain StaffellProfessor Richard GreenDr Rob Gross and Professor Tim Green.

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