Q1 2019: Britain’s power system records

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by Dr Iain Staffell – Imperial College London 

This year we have begun keeping track of all the record highs and lows on Britain’s power system. 

The tables below look over the past decade (2009 to 2019) and report the record output and share of electricity generation, plus sustained averages over a day, a month and a calendar year1. Cells highlighted in blue are records that were broken in the first quarter of 2019. Each record links to the date it occurred on the Electric Insights website, allowing the data to be explored visually. 

Wind power broke several records this quarter, exceeding 15.3 GW on Sunday February 8th, and generating almost half of Britain’s electricity on Friday January 13th. Biomass also had a record day, supplying just shy of a tenth of Britain’s electricity on Sunday March 31st. Monthly generation from all low carbon sources (renewables, nuclear and French imports) came close to averaging 20 GW during March.

All records for electricity imports were broken as the Nemo interconnector began operation (except the highest year, which was 2018). The greater connectivity meant one export record was also broken – with Britain exporting almost 10% of its generation, beating the previous record of 9.3% that has stood since 2011.

While fossil fuels are generally on the decline in Britain, gas-fired power stations hit new record outputs on Thursday January 24th, as freezing weather and low wind speeds coincided. Gas power stations produced more than 27 GW for the first time ever, and more than 24 GW averaged over the whole day.

March this year had the cleanest electricity mix on record, with 36% renewables and 17% nuclear versus just 38% fossil fuels. Carbon emissions were 3 g/kWh lower than the previous record from August 2018.

1: The annual records relate to calendar years, so cover the period of 2009 to 2018.

2: Note that Britain has no inter-seasonal electricity storage, so we only report on half-hourly and daily records. Elexon and National Grid only report the output of large pumped hydro storage plants. The operation of battery, flywheel and other storage sites is not publicly available.

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

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