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Headlines from the 2019 Q4 report

The last decade has seen unprecedented changes in the power system, so we dedicate this issue of Electric Insights to looking at ‘the ten years of transition’.

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Britain's decade of decarbonisation

Looking back over the last decade, Britain’s power system has changed beyond recognition. Carbon emissions from electricity consumption fell by almost two-thirds, the fastest rate of decarbonisation anywhere in the world. Emissions fell 14% in the last year alone, quelling fears that low-carbon generation has stalled.

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The 100 years from coal to clean power

Energy sector transitions are meant to be slow. Power stations have long lifetimes and are expensive to replace, so it usually takes decades to shift the supply mix. The chart below shows how Britain’s power system is rewriting the rule book. The electricity generation mix changed more in the 2010s than in the previous ninety years combined.

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What to watch in the 2020s

The 2020s are billed as the ten years we have to save the climate. What might they have in store for Britain’s power system? The old saying goes that predictions are difficult, especially if they’re about the future. However, several aspects of the coming decade’s transition are already baked in through investment and retirement decisions. So, can we already say whether or not the rapid changes of the 2010s will continue or not?

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What drove Britain's decarbonisation?

Many things have helped to reduce Britain’s power sector carbon emissions: coal phase-out, new renewables, rising carbon prices and falling demand. But how much did each of these contribute, and what was their impact on the cost of generating electricity?

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A major milestone for electric heat

The UK’s ambition for net zero means that all sectors of the energy system must rapidly decarbonise. In the run up to COP26 in Glasgow, Electric Insights will look across these sectors to discuss how clean electricity can help.

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Capacity and production statistics

Wind supplied its largest ever share of electricity over the fourth quarter of 2019, beating nuclear again to supply 23%. Four out of the last five quarters have seen wind being the second largest provider of electricity.

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Power system records

2019 saw all clean electricity sources break their previous records for annual production. For wind, solar and biomass, these were all-time highs; for nuclear, it was the lowest output recorded this century. Wind supplied more than a fifth of Britain’s electricity for the first time, while coal fell to a new low of just 2%. 2019 was also the first year where Britain’s electricity averaged below 200 grams of CO2 per kWh.

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Great Britain's biggest electricity sources (1920-2019) animation

Animated leaderboard based on findings from Drax Electric Insights Quarterly Q4 2019, Great Britain's biggest electricity sources (1920-2019).

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