Wind Surpasses Gas in Britain’s Electricity Generation for 1st Time

by | May 15, 2023


Wind turbines on a green hillside

(Credit: Canva Pro)

In a significant milestone for renewable energy in the United Kingdom, wind turbines have surpassed gas-fired power stations in electricity generation.

According to data released by Drax Electric Insights, wind turbines generated more electricity than gas during the first quarter of 2023. This marks the first time that wind power has provided the largest share of power in any quarter in the country’s electricity grid history. The findings highlight the increasing dominance of renewable energy sources in Britain’s electricity generation landscape.

Wind Power Outpaces Gas

During the first quarter of 2023, wind power accounted for 32.4% of the U.K.’s electricity supply, surpassing gas-fired power stations which delivered 31.7%. The data indicates a shift in the country’s energy mix and reflects the growing importance of wind energy in the transition toward a cleaner power grid. This information is part of the quarterly Drax Electric Insights report, an independent publication by academics from Imperial College London.

Record-Breaking Britain’s Electricity Generation

Over the three-month period, Britain’s wind turbines generated 24 terawatt-hours of electricity. Wind power output increased by 3% compared to the same quarter last year, according to the report, while gas generation declined by 5%. Notably, renewable sources (including wind, solar, biomass, and hydro) accounted for nearly 42% of Britain’s electricity, surpassing fossil fuel generation which contributed 33%.

Dr. Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, the lead author of the Drax Electric Insights report, emphasized the transformative effect of the renewable power revolution on the U.K.’s electricity generation. The country has made remarkable progress in reducing its reliance on coal, eliminating it almost entirely in just a decade. This shift towards cleaner energy sources has significantly improved the environmental sustainability of the power grid. The achievement of wind outpacing gas underscores the potential for further advancements when governments create favorable environments for clean technology investments.

Transitioning Away from Coal

Britain now operates only one coal-fired power station, as Drax ended the use of coal at its North Yorkshire plant in the previous month. Once the largest coal-fired power station in Western Europe, Drax has undergone a transformation by converting four of its six generating units to utilize sustainable biomass. As a result, the plant has become the largest generator of renewable power in the U.K., providing clean and secure electricity to the nation.

The Future of Renewable Energy Using Wind Power

Bruce Heppenstall, Drax power station plant director, stressed the importance of reducing reliance on foreign gas for national energy security. Biomass has played a vital role in supplying reliable renewable power, especially during energy crises, by displacing fossil fuel imports. Heppenstall called for increased investment in carbon-negative technologies such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). These technologies have the potential to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit, making them crucial in achieving net-zero targets and attracting clean energy investment while creating job opportunities.

With renewable energy sources contributing nearly 42% of the country’s electricity during the first quarter of 2023, there is a clear indication of the positive impact of the renewable power revolution. The ongoing transition away from coal and the growth of wind energy demonstrates the U.K.’s commitment to a cleaner energy transition, Drax said. Continued investment in carbon-negative technologies, such as BECCS, will play a crucial role in establishing the country as a global leader in carbon removal, meeting net-zero targets, and attracting further clean energy investment.

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