National Grid has announced that Britain is on course for the electricity generated by zero carbon sources to be greater than from fossil fuel sources for the whole of 2019.
Data published by National Grid shows that in the first five months of 2019, the zero carbon share of the generation mix was greater than that from fossil fuels. A total of 47.9% of electricity was generated from wind, solar, nuclear and hydro between January and May 2019, while 46.6% came from coal and gas. The contribution from biomass was not include in the figures because it is not classified as either zero carbon or as fossil fuel.
The change has been brought about by a number of factors including the phase-out of coal-fired power stations and an increase in renewable capacity. Interconnectors are also contributing to efforts to cut emissions. For example, the North Sea link that is due to be completed in 2021 will bring electricity to Britain from Norway’s hydro network. It is expected that by 2020, 65% of electricity imports will be zero carbon, rising to 90% by 2030.
John Pettigre, CEO of National Grid, said: The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past ten years means we can now say 2019 will be the year zero carbon power beats fossil fuel fired generation for the first time. Having reached this landmark tipping point, the question is what are we doing today to get to net zero as quickly as possible?
In early June, the UK government announced that it would set into law a commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It is hoped that this initiative will send a strong signal for other countries to follow suit. While the previous target of an 80% reduction was challenging, the new target is a step change and the debate now centres around how this can be achieved. It is clear that more finely grained market signals will be needed. Gas still accounts for a significant proportion of the electricity generation mix, standing at 39% in 2018. It is a reliable source of electricity and can be brought online quickly when needed. The use of natural gas in the heat sector is also a challenge. Expectations are that a mix of heat solutions will be utilised. For example, some regions may focus on the electrification of heat, while others may utilise hydrogen. A government heat strategy is due to be published next year.