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News - 22 April 2020

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Zero carbon operation of Great Britain's electricity system by 2025.

22 April 2020


Have you seen this article, published by the National Grid ESO in April 2019? It introduces the National Grid ESO's claim that it will be able to fully operate Great Britain's electricity system with zero carbon by 2025. That sounds good, doesn't it?

It provides a link to a full report available as a downloadable document. The report contains more details of what appears to be a very confident and encouraging statement.

However, there are a couple of clauses that can be easily overlooked in these documents:

  • In the first one the clause whenever there is sufficient renewable generation is used. That means that the aim is to be able to provide zero carbon electricity whenever we don't need fossil fuels. In other words, we won't use fossil fuels when we don't need to. Surely that's a lot less encouraging and ambitious?

  • In the downloadable document the statement whenever there is sufficient renewable generation on-line and available to meet the total national load is used. However, it does also include the statement There soon will be times in the year when the market could meet the total demand for electricity through renewable generation only.

From the general tone it seems that the days when renewables can provide all the electricity we need are close at hand. But how true is that?

Back in 2018, on how many days could renewable sources provide all of GB's electricity needs? None. That's right, none.

Surely there was better news in 2019? On how many days in 2019 could renewables provide all of our electricity needs? No, none again.

And to what extent are things improving in 2020? What is the evidence that our need for fossil fuels is declining such that we will have whole days when we don't need them. We can't see any.

The truth doesn't paint such a good picture, does it?

The end of coal is planned, but the plan for electricity will not currently allow GB to stop using CCGT Gas.

If you'd like to check our facts, take a look at the Elexon website, which contains the historical data related to GB electricity generation that we have referred to,

Oh, and by the way, we are still generating some electricity from nuclear sources and the current plan is to continue to use them. Nuclear is not usually counted as a fossil fuel, but it's not a renewable either. The best we can say is that it is effectively zero carbon.

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