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Renewables made record-breaking 43.1% share of UK power generation in 2020

Offshore wind generated 27% more electricity in 2020 compared to 2019. Image: Getty

Offshore wind generated 27% more electricity in 2020 compared to 2019. Image: Getty

Renewables made up a 43.1% share of UK power generation in 2020, generating more electricity than fossil fuels in the year.

This is the first time renewables have beat fossil fuels since the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) began publishing its Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES).

Renewables’ share of the generation mix rose by 6.2 percentage points compared to 2019, with all renewable technologies – which includes bioenergy – seeing increases in generation shares in 2020.

The largest of these was wind, which provided 24% of total power generation in 2020.

Renewables generated 134.6TWh in 2020, a 12.6% increase compared to 2019 and more than the 117.8TWh generated from fossil fuels.

The high renewable generation was largely driven by increased wind generation, which was up 18% compared to 2019 to 75.4TWh. Offshore wind in particular had a strong year, generating 27% more electricity in 2020 compared to 2019 as a result of favourable conditions and increased capacity.

Wind set a new generation record in 2020 when Storm Francis pushed wind power to produce 59.9% of the country’s electricity at 1.30am on 26 August, producing 14.2GW. This was then broken again in May 2021 when wind generated 17.7GW between 3.30-4:30pm.

Derated renewable generation capacity as a whole continued to increase in 2020, with the DUKES figures stating that 400MW was added, taking the total derated capacity figure to 22.4GW. Without derating, this is an increase of 1GW, bringing the total installed capacity to 47.8GW.

Total generation capacity, however, decreased in 2020 to 75.8GW, with this being in part due to the closure of coal power station Fiddler’s Ferry and nuclear station Dungeness B.

The decline of coal is to continue, with the ban on coal generation having been brought forward to 2024. Only one coal-fired power station - Uniper's Ratcliffe-on-Soar - is set to still be in operation from 2022.

Electricity demand also fell in 2020 to a record low of 330TWh, down 4.6% compared to 2019. This was primarily a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a decrease in industrial and commercial electricity consumption but higher domestic consumption.

The low demand seen in 2020 is well-documented, with April being particularly hard hit. Average monthly demand was 7.5% lower than normal in the month, with a new record low of 24.18GW recorded over the bank holiday weekend.


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