Britain’s energy system provided its greenest ever electricity to homes and businesses over the summer due to a surge in wind and solar power which spells trouble for traditional power plant operators.
National Grid said almost 52pc of the country’s power demand was met by low carbon sources, such as renewable energy and nuclear power, compared to around 35pc four years ago.
The low-carbon boom was led by renewables which made up almost a quarter of all power from June 21 to September 22 from less than 10pc four years ago, and a fifth last year.
The warmer months were dotted with milestone energy moments including the first working day since the industrial revolution where the UK’s energy system was completely coal-free in April . Later in May a quarter of energy demand was met by the 7GW of solar power that was supplying electricity to the grid.
In the first week of June renewable power met over 50pc of the nation’s electricity supply and days later a surge of wind, solar, and nuclear power pushed the energy grid’s carbon intensity to record lows.
“It’s been an exciting year managing the many ‘network firsts’ – from a day where we operated the system with zero coal power, to one where over half of Great Britain’s energy demand was met by renewable generation,” said National Grid’s systems boss Duncan Burt.
But the green energy bonanza is likely to put greater pressure on the operators of traditional power plants, including nuclear reactors, which make weaker returns when subsidised renewables flood the market and reduce the wholesale market price.
Roshan Patel, an analyst at Investec, told The Daily Telegraph: “Higher renewables output has meant thermal power plants are operated over ever fewer hours. In addition, generation with zero marginal cost, such as renewables, also puts downwards pressure on average wholesale prices, affecting all but subsidised renewables.”
The fall in market prices also poses a dilemma for EDF Energy which operates the country’s fleet of low-carbon nuclear plants.
Gareth Redmond-King, from WWF, said the success of the renewables industry must be matched by further commitment from the Government, which is expected to publish its long-awaited Clean Growth Plan within weeks.
“It’s time for the UK Government to step up and deliver a strong and ambitious clean growth plan, continuing to support renewables, cleaning up our transport and making our homes more energy efficient,” he said.