Q3 2023: Introduction: Renewable records and disappearing demand

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Renewables supplied more than 40% of Britain’s electricity demand, their highest share for the third quarter of the year. This made it the lowest-carbon quarter on record, with emissions falling below 150 g/kWh for the first time ever.  Our first article tracks the journey to beating the previous record, and the challenges faced in getting carbon emissions down further. Expect more records to break in the coming year as Dogger Bank, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, starts to come online.  October saw the first power generated from the first phase of the project (1.2 of its eventual 3.6 GW of capacity). 

In terms of renewables, it’s not just wind that is on the up.  Solar panel sales are surging, with 2023 set to see more capacity installed than the last six years combined.  Article 3 explores the sudden about-turn for solar, and the profound impacts this will have on the power system.  

Another factor increasing the renewable share was electricity demand falling sharply, down 5% compared to this time last year.  Over 1 GW of demand has disappeared, in part due to mild weather, and the continuing impact of high prices on consumers.  Article 4 shows why this year could mark a turning point, as new sources of demand from electric vehicles and heat pumps put the downwards trend into reverse.

Low demand and high renewables output have squeezed fossil fuels.  Power production from natural gas was down 33% on this time last year, and output from coal plants has halved.  Article 5 shows how coal supplied less than 1% of Britain’s electricity over the past year, its lowest in over a century, and how Britain compares on the international stage.

Finally, at this year’s political party conferences the Conservatives and Labour set out very different visions for the country’s energy system.  The Tory Party conference saw a rollback of dates for ending sales of new gas boilers, petrol and diesel cars, as the Prime Minister argued that nobody should have decarbonisation measures forced on them.  In contrast, Labour laid out plans deliver 100% clean electricity by 2030, and establish a state-run energy company, “GB Energy”.  Next year’s General Election will be pivotal in choosing the direction of travel for the future power system.

Share of electricity demand met by renewables in the third quarter of each year

Daily average generation from different types of generation during Quarter 3 this year

Live Grid Data