Windy conditions saw renewable power generation hit record levels in 2017, according to a new report by Stockton -based energy market monitoring firm EnAppSys.
Last year, renewables provided more than one quarter (27.3%) of overall power generation in Britain for the first time. The 83.2TWh generated was bolstered by a strong performance from wind energy, which contributed more than half (44.6TWh) of this total.
This was due in part to the recent commissioning of several wind farms, and stormy weather in the last quarter, with Q4 2017 seeing the highest levels of wind generation on record.
The net impact of this activity is that levels of generation from renewables in 2017 were more than six times higher than they were ten years ago, and this has resulted in a 60% reduction in estimated carbon emissions, an 84% decline in power from coal plants and a 15% cut in gas-fired generation.
Coal-fired generation continued to decline in 2017, producing 20.7TWh compared with 27.9TWh in 2016, although activity did pick up in Q4 when gas prices rose due to several gas supply issues in Europe, highlighting the potential for levels of coal-fired generation to increase if further gas supply issues arise in the European network.
Overall, gas was still the dominant force in Britain’s power mix last year, contributing 39.2% of the total. Renewables generated 27.3% and nuclear plants 21.6%, with 6.8% coming from coal plants and 5.2% from electricity imports.
Paul Verrill, director at EnAppSys, said: “The high levels of wind generation, and particularly those towards the end of the year, were caused by stormy weather and increased levels of wind capacity in 2017. Even if 2018 does not see the same frequency of storms, the contribution of wind to the overall power mix is likely to rise again now that the Western Link interconnector becomes fully operational.
“This interconnector, which came online in December, will make it possible for an additional 2.2GW of excess wind to be moved from Scotland into England and Wales. Last year there was an over-supply of wind due to lower demand for electricity and approximately 3% of wind generation was wasted as wind farms in Scotland were turned down or off because their output could not be used by the market.
“As this additional wind flows into the system there will be new challenges the market must navigate with respect to handling an excess of wind throughout the wider system overnight, but this will in turn create opportunities for storage plants in the market.”