With climate change currently very relevant in the maritime industry, we thought we would shine a light on Britain's zero-carbon electricity usage. This year for the first time, according to National Grid, Britain is set to use more electricity from zero-carbon sources such as wind, solar and nuclear than from fossil fuels.
Coal was Britain's dominant electricity source in the late 19th century and was a major economic driver for the next century, being home to the first coal-fuelled power plant in the world at the time. However, last week it became the first G7 country to commit to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, a target requiring a large increase in low-carbon power, and an even larger reduction in fossil fuel use.
European leaders have also this week discussed moving to a tougher climate target but have struggled to find unanimity among member states.
National Grid CEO John Pettigrew has said;
The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past 10 years means we can now say 2019 will be the year zero-carbon power beats fossil fuel fired generation for the first time
Data from National Grid shows low-carbon power generation contributed around 48% of Britains electricity in the first five months of 2019 while fossil fuels such as coal and gas-fired plants contributed around 47%. The rest comes from biomass and storage. Britan's huge increase in wind power capacity has largely been the cause of this, with wind contributing almost a fifth of the country's power in the first five months of 2019, up from just 1% in 2009. Britain's windy coastlines, in particular, have been a perfect location for larger wind projects, with the northwest coast of England home to the world's largest offshore wind farm, Orsted's Walney Extension.
The increase in zero-carbon power marks a huge shift from a decade ago when coal and gas plants provided around three-quarters of the country's electricity. Britain plans to phase out all coal-fired power generation by 2025. Contrastingly; Germany, which gets around 35% of its electricity from renewable sources, has struggled to reduce its emissions due to a high dependence on coal, which contributed more than one-third of its power last year.
Electricity imports are also in place to help Britain achieve a zero-carbon electricity supply. 9% of Britain's electricity came from imports from Europe via interconnectors with France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland during the first five months of the year. More than half of these imports come from zero-carbon generation. National Grid said the growing number of power interconnectors Britain has with its neighbours, such as nuclear power dominant France, will help Britain further curb its fossil fuel use.
An interconnector planned with Norway will give Britain access to Norway's carbon-free hydro-power, while also enabling Britain to export its growing wind capacity, National Grid said. The UK-Norway Sea Link, at 720km, is the world's longest interconnector and is expected to begin operation in 2021. The ElecLink 1GW electrical interconnector utilising the channel tunnel is also under construction.