Q2 2019: Headlines

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by Dr Iain Staffell – Imperial College London

This quarter’s Electric Insights features two special reports on Britain’s power system moving towards zero fossil fuels, and how this makes electric vehicles cleaner than ever.

Last quarter saw major press coverage about ‘zero coal’ as Britain went for a fortnight without any coal power stations operating. The bigger challenge is getting all the way to zero carbon electricity and moving away from all unabated fossil fuels. Article 2 looks at the progress Britain’s power system is making, and how the last quarter saw the first full day with a carbon intensity below the Committee on Climate Change’s critical target of 100 g/kWh, and the first ever excursion below a 10% share of fossil fuels.

Back in 2017 we looked at electric cars getting greener due to changes in the power system. A lot has changed in the last two years, more models are available and electric vans and taxis have taken off. Article 3 looks at how these new models perform in environmental terms, and whether Britain’s electricity is clean enough to repay the carbon emissions released in making their huge batteries.

This quarter, the Electric Insights website was upgraded to show the split between onshore and offshore wind. The UK has over 2,000 turbines installed out at sea, making it the world’s leader in offshore wind. Article 4 shows how the country’s wind industry has developed over the last 20 years, revealing that onshore wind is still the largest source of wind power. 

Article 5 looks at the power system’s statistics over the last quarter. Wholesale prices have fallen dramatically since the start of the year. Nuclear power fell to its lowest output in over a decade. And for the first time, coal has fallen to last place in the generation mix, producing less electricity than hydropower. Article 6 looks at the record highs and lows in the power system, 24 of which were broken over the last three months. In June, electricity demand fell to its lowest levels in 25 years.

Monthly average electricity demand

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

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