Q2 2022: Power system records

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Dr Iain Staffell, Professor Richard Green, Professor Tim Green and Dr Malte Jansen – Imperial College London 

Britain’s wind farms hit a major milestone back in May, producing more than 20 GW for the first time.  National Grid reported peak output hitting 19.916 GW, but our data which combines National Grid and Elexon data registered the total as 20.002 GW.

Over the first half of 2022, thirty of the records that we track were broken, mostly relating to renewable and low carbon generation hitting new highs, and fossil fuel output reaching new lows.  Renewable energy sources (wind, solar, biomass and hydro) provided more than half the country’s electricity throughout the month of February, and peaked at an instantaneous share of 73% of the country’s demand.

Britain saw its cleanest ever electricity on New Year’s Day, with the generation mix producing only 55 grams of CO2 per kWh, the lowest ever for a day.  This means 1,550 tonnes of CO2 were produced by the electricity sector that day.  This compares to 6,200 tCO2 on New Year’s Day last year, and a staggering 21,100 tCO2 from the first day of 2009.

Given how electricity prices have risen, you might expect that the price records would have tumbled, but only the monthly-average price hit an all-time high.  Extremely high but short-lived price spikes are common in normal times, as they are about acute shortages of capacity in specific hours.  The current situation is a chronic increase in fuel prices which affects all hours.

The tables below look over the past decade (2009 to 2022) and report the record output and share of electricity generation, plus sustained averages over a day, a month and a calendar year.[1]  Cells highlighted in blue are records that were broken in the first half of 2022.  Each number links to the date it occurred on the Electric Insights website, so these records can be explored visually.

[1] The annual records relate to full calendar years, so cover the period of 2009 to 2021.

[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.

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