50% of the country’s electricity came from wind, solar, hydro, nuclear and biomass in 2017. Renewables alone produced enough to power 1958.
After a year of smashing renewable records, Great Britain’s electricity system is less dependent on fossil fuels than ever before. Over the course of 2017, low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear as well as renewables, accounted for half of all electricity production.
The finding comes from Electric Insights, a quarterly research paper on Britain’s power system, commissioned by Drax and written by researchers from Imperial College London. The latest report highlights how Great Britain’s electricity system is rapidly moving away from fossil fuels, with coal and gas dropping from 80% of the electricity mix in 2010 to 50% in 2017.
It’s an impressive change for eight years, but it’s even more dramatic when compared to 60 years ago.
Powering the past with renewables
In 2017 renewable output grew 27% over 2016 and produced 96 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity – enough to power the entire country in 1958.
Back then Great Britain was dependent on one fuel: coal. It was the source of 92% of the country’s power and its high-carbon intensity meant emissions from electricity generation sat at 93 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). Compare that to just three million tonnes of CO2 emissions from roughly the same amount of power generated in 2017, justwables.
Today the electricity system is much more diverse than in 1958. In fact, with nuclear added to renewable generation, 2017’s total low-carbon capacity produced enough power to fulfill the electricity needs of 1964’s Beatlemania Britain.