Q4 2022: Introduction

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Dr Iain Staffell, Professor Richard Green, Professor Tim Green and Dr Malte Jansen – Imperial College London, Dr Malte Jansen – University of Sussex, Professor Rob Gross – UK Energy Research Centre

Without a doubt, 2022 was an exceptional and record-breaking year for the power system, for reasons both bad and good.  On the one hand, electricity prices rose a further 75% from last year’s record highs, leaving an estimated 
8 million households in fuel poverty.  On the other hand, renewables grew to their highest ever share of electricity production and carbon emissions started to fall again after rebounding in 2021.  Our first article reviews the key trends over the last year and offers some thoughts on what 2023 might have in store.

Electrification is the next big step in decarbonising our energy use.  Electric heat pumps offer the promise of low-carbon heating, and are becoming mainstream as major energy companies start to offer systems for as little as £3,000 in England & Wales (or just £500 in Scotland). Electric vehicle sales also hit a record high of 1 in 3 new cars sold in December.  Current trends suggest EVs are set to overtake petrol and diesel sales in just two years.  Our second article looks at what the next few years could hold, the barriers that must be overcome, and the impacts on electricity and oil demand.

The end of December saw the largest ever surplus of clean electricity generation.  At one point, Britain had enough low-carbon power to meet the entire national demand plus an extra 3 GW to export to our neighbours.  Article 3 looks at how far we can go with moving away from coal and gas, and what is stopping fossil fuels from being eliminating completely.

While renewable output is up, Britain’s nuclear fleet continues to struggle.  Two more nuclear stations ceased operations in 2022, and now EDF have raised fresh fears about extending the lifetime of two of the last remaining stations on economic grounds.

Natural gas prices around the world, in comparison to the global price of oil.  Gas prices are converted to the measure used for oil (dollars per barrel) in terms of equivalent energy content.

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