According to Drax’s ‘Electric Insights’ quarterly report, Q3 (July to September) this year was the lowest-carbon quarter on record in Britain, with emissions falling to 143g/kWh.
According to the electric services company this is the first time that the 150g/kWh milestone has been beaten over a quarter.
Before this, the UK’s carbon intensity had remained stagnant since 2020, hovering close to 180g/kWh.
Figure 1: Quarterly average carbon intensity of electricity generation over the last decade, log scale
Renewables played a crucial role in this carbon decrease, suppling 41.2% of Britain’s electricity in Q3 2023.
The combined renewable output of renewables hit a new record in Q3, as renewables produced 52% and 49% of Britain’s electricity in July and September respectively. It was also a record breaking quarter for Europe as a whole, as a recent report by EnAppSys revealed that renewable power generation in Europe increased by 12% compared to the same time period in 2022.
July 2023 was also the lowest-carbon month on record, at 133g/kWh. 24 September also saw a new daily record for carbon intensity at 40g/kWh, followed by the lowest wholesale power price on record at -£77.29/MWh.
Wind output has increased by one-fifth compared to Q3 2022, with offshore wind alone producing over 9TWh over the quarter continued the report, and it’s output will only grow as Dogger Bank – the world’s largest wind farm – begins supplying energy to the grid.
1GW of demand disappears
Electricity demand in Q3 fell by 5% this year, hitting a new low for the quarter and dropping below 60TWh to 59.1TWh.
This represents a fall in demand of over 1GW since last year.
Figure 2: Weekly average electricity demand over Quarter 3 this year, last year, and over the preceding decade
Drax attributed this drop partly to mild weather, including a lack of heat waves in July and August, and a warm September.
But the biggest impact on demand noted by Drax was high power prices, forcing consumers to cut back on electricity use. National Energy Action (NEA) recently revealed results of a poll which showed that struggling households were resorting to extreme coping tactics to save on their energy bills, including putting newspaper on their windows.
“This is a milestone moment in the UK’s decarbonisation journey, getting our carbon emissions down by more than two-thirds in just a decade is a real achievement,” said Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, and lead author of the quarterly Drax Electric Insights report series.
“With our renewable capacity continuing to grow, we should see more clean power records broken in the coming years. However, the long-term picture is more complicated, and it is vital that government continues to explore how to unlock investment in clean energy technologies.
“The rise in electric vehicles and heat pumps will push up electricity demand. We need to build more renewables of all types and kick-start negative emissions technologies, to not just keep pace with demand growth, but continue growing the share of clean energy and keep carbon emissions falling.”