Gas and renewables are displacing coal in electricity generation

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The third quarter of 2015 saw energy generation output from Britain’s coal-fired power stations fall 54% from the same period in 2014 as a result of lower gas prices, plants converting to burning biomass and increased renewable generation.

Figures included in the GB Electricity Market Summary, from EnAppSys, showed that during July-September coal plants provided 12.6TWh of generation or 17.8% of Britain’s 32GW total average daily electricity output. This represented a 24% reduction from the previous quarter.

The period saw gas-fired (CCGT) plants generate the most power output (32%) of any fuel type, contributing 22.6TWh over the period; a daily output of 10.2GW. This represented a 15% increase on the previous quarter but remained 40% down from the CCGT generation peek in Q3 2009.

The period saw a 31% increase in renewables generation from the same period in 2014, with an average daily output of around 6.5GW, presenting 20% of total output.

This growth in renewable generation has in part been driven by large increases in solar capacity. Developers have accelerated the building of solar farms to meet subsidy scheme deadlines. Britain has also seen higher levels than expected wind generation over the normally calmer summer months. The grown has somewhat complicated the market resulting in increased levels of oversupply and uncertainty. However, the market is also showing sign of adapting to the resulting higher levels of renewable generation, particularly from solar PV during the day.

Levels of electricity demand over the quarter fell by 1% to 28.8GW, from the same period in 2014. This follows an on-going year-by-year trend of falling electricity demand, due to reductions in electricity usage and the growth in embedded generation at high-demand sites.

Overall during Q3 2015 CCGT produced 31.8% of overall electricity generation, with nuclear plants providing 22%, coal plants 18% and interconnectors 8%. Renewables contributed 20.2%; of this figure, wind produced 41%, biomass 32%, solar PV 20% and 7% from hydro plants.

Paul Verrill, director of EnAppSys, said: “Renewables are increasingly offsetting the decline in coal-fired electricity generation, and are paying an increasing role in meeting Britain’s energy needs as their relative contribution increases.

“At the same time, levels of gas-fired generation have bounced back from previous levels, although output in the third quarter of 2015 is still 40% below the levels of power generated at CCGT plants in Q3 2009.

“Coal and gas-fired plant continue to provide the bulk of Britain’s electricity generation, totalling 50% of total electricity generation in Q3 2015. However, despite closures of coal fired plants, it is unlikely that gas-fired plants will return to the levels of generation seen in 2009.”

The EnAppSys Q3 2015 GB Electricity Summary is available at here.

Graph of GB generation by fuel type

For more information, help or advice please contact Andrew Davison on 0191 211 7950 or email [email protected].