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Headlines from the 2020 Q1 report

2020 has got off to a pretty poor start. Britain was battered by storms throughout January and February. Unprecedented rainfall flooded thousands of homes, but the accompanying gales sent wind power to new records.

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Under lockdown, every day is a Sunday

On March 23rd the UK took unprecedented steps to tackle the Coronavirus. Most business that had not already closed moved online, with millions of people now working from home. This had a huge impact on electricity demand: consumption on weekdays fell by 13% to its lowest levels since 1982 – a time when there were 10 million fewer people in the country, and GDP was a third lower than today.

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A final fling with coal power

Two of Britain’s oldest coal power stations closed on March 31st, leaving just three left on the mainland. But before shutting down they burnt through their remaining stockpiles of fuel, pushing up Britain’s coal consumption for the first time since 2012.

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Wind power surges to new records

Britain’s wind farms had a bumper quarter, with output up 40% on this time last year. A succession of severe winter storms battered the country, giving the wettest and windiest February since records began. This helped make February the first month on record when more electricity was produced by wind farms than gas-fired power stations across the country.

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Demand-side response to the rescue

Two cold, calm spells punctuated the record wind output last quarter. Demand-side response operated full force to help during the first event in January.  It was much less prominent during the second event in March, giving very different consequences for the power system.

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Capacity and production statistics

This quarter saw wind come within striking distance of beating gas for the first time ever – with just 0.1 TWh separating them. Wind farm capacity factors averaged nearly 50% over the quarter, well above their long-run average of 31% (27% for onshore and 38% for offshore).

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Power system records

This was a record-breaking quarter for renewables and low-carbon power sources. Britain’s wind farms broke all records, most notably by supplying an average of 12.3 GW through February, smashing previous record of 9.3 GW set back in December 2019.  

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