Q2 2020: Capacity and production statistics

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by Dr Iain Staffell – Imperial College London

Four-tenths of Britain’s electricity came from renewables last quarter, while coal supplied just 1/500th. 

Coal’s share has fallen from over a fifth just five years ago. The prospect of zero coal over a whole quarter now seems quite real.

Electricity output from wind, solar and biomass were each up more than 10% on this quarter last year. Combined with lower demand, this pushed fossil fuels off the system. Gas output was down a third, and coal all but disappeared, supplying just 0.1 TWh over the three months. 

To underline this role reversal, the average capacity factor of Britain’s renewables was 27% versus just 24% for fossil-fuelled power stations. This mirrors the wider trend of coal power station capacity factors falling worldwide

Falling demand and prices also reduced Britain’s trade deficit in electricity. We imported less power from our neighbours, and exported twice as much compared to this quarter last year.

Britain’s electricity supply mix in the second quarter of 2020

Installed capacity and electricity produced by each technology1 2 

1: Other sources give different values because of the types of plant they consider. For example, BEIS Energy Trends records an additional 0.7 GW of hydro, 0.6 GW of biomass and 3 GW of waste-to-energy plants. These plants and their output are not visible to the electricity transmission system and so cannot be reported on here.

2: We include an estimate of the installed capacity of smaller storage devices which are not monitored by the electricity market operator. Britain’s storage capacity is made up of 2.9 GW of pumped hydro storage, 0.6 GW of lithium-ion batteries, 0.4 GW of flywheels and 0.3 GW of compressed air.

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