• Andrew Byrne

Wind power blows away records in a good year for renewables


National Grid Electricity Control Centre. Source : National Grid ESO


2020 will not be remembered with much affection but through the pandemic-inflicted gloom, slivers of hope did emerge. Renewable-sourced power had its best year on record with new highs occurring throughout the year, the latest of which saw 43% of the UK’s electricity mix being provided by windfarms on December 18th.


Between 1pm and 1:30pm on that afternoon, the National Grid ESO (electricity system operator) revealed that wind turbines generated 17.3 GW of electricity power beating the 17.1 GW record set in January 2020. The 43% share of the country’s power is considerably less than the 60% recorded in August – another record.


On December 18th, zero-carbon power (wind, nuclear, biomass and hydro) accounted for 74% of the National Grid’s electricity. Melanie Onn, deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK, said: “We expect to see many more records set in the years ahead, as the Government has made wind energy one of the most important pillars of its energy strategy for reaching net zero emissions as fast and as cheaply as possible”.


More statistics from National Grid ESO testify to the burgeoning role played by renewable sources of power in 2020. On April 20th, solar power contributed its highest amount (9.7 GW) to the grid. May 24th saw the lowest carbon intensity recorded in the electricity mix and for 68 days between April and June, the grid ran without any coal power – the longest stretch in 140 years.


The UK government has set a target of increasing offshore wind production to a level which would enable it to produce enough electricity to power every home in the country by 2030. Increasing production and creating jobs in the renewable energy sector was at the heart of the 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution announced by the Prime Minister in November.


It is not just the UK which has seen a surge in renewable energy. A report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in November indicated that almost 90% of new electricity generated globally in 2020 would come from renewable sources. The report contrasted this with the sharp declines triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic in the oil, gas and coal sectors and forecast that “renewables are set to become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide by 2025”.


The positivity of the IEA’s forecast was tempered, however, by another report released in early December on how the world is using energy. Energy efficiency is expected to improve by less than 1% this year, the weakest rate of increase since 2010. Covid-19 is deemed to be a significant factor here due to a “plunge in investment in energy-efficient building, equipment and vehicles amid the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic”.

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