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Carbon intensity hits new low as renewables power Britain to fresh record

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

Renewable generation soared as Britain hit a new carbon emissions record last month, with power's carbon intensity sliding to just 97g/kWh on 30 June, according to data from Drax.

The previous record – of 104g/kWh – was set last summer, but the new landmark heralds the first time the country's power sector has met the Committee on Climate Change’s 2030 target of 100g/kWh for a whole day.

High levels of wind and sun that day are being touted as enabling the record, with renewables providing more than half - 55.3% - of Britain’s electricity. That breaks down to 39% from wind, 9% from solar, 8% from biomass and 1% from hydro. The previous record stood at 49.4% on 21 September 2018, according to Drax's Electric Insights data.

The drop in carbon emissions on 30 June was also made possible due to it being a summer Sunday, resulting in lower demand as less people were at work or school, daylight hours were longer and temperatures warmer than other seasons.

Fossil fuels supplied just 9.5% of electricity in the mid-afternoon. CO2 emissions from the electricity system were 72% lower than the most carbon intensive day so far this year, which came in at 347g/kWh in January, a difference of 158,000 tonnes of CO2.

June also recorded the lowest ever monthly demand of 29.4GW, beating the previous record of 29.6GW from August 2017.

The UK recorded its greenest ever winter in 2018/19, according to National Grid ESO, and saw the carbon intensity power generation over the period establish a record low of 241.8g CO2/kWh.

Data from EnAppSys revealed earlier this month that renewable generation almost doubled nuclear in Q2 of this year at 23.1TWh compared to 12.3TWh produced by nuclear plants.

Analysing the data, Imperial Consultants' Iain Staffell described the findings as “fantastic progress” but stressed there is a long way to go before net zero.

“Britain’s power system is decarbonising at a faster rate than any other country in the world. We have spent more than half the summer without a single coal power station turned on, and renewables are breaking new records all the time.

“To make a real difference to the climate crisis, we must waste no time in using this low-carbon electricity to clean up our transport and buildings,” he added.

Drax also released data on its own decarbonisation efforts, recording a 52% reduction in its carbon emissions in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period of 2018.

Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group, said: “Drax is playing an important role in the energy transition – our carbon emissions in the first half of the year have halved compared to last year.

“With our biomass, pumped storage, hydro and gas power stations, we are generating more renewable, low carbon and flexible power to support the system as it continues to decarbonise.”

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