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Electricity generation milestone

21 June 2019

This year, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, more of Britain’s electricity production will come from zero carbon energy sources, than fossil fuels.

According to National Grid, annual power generation data from the last decade shows Britain’s reliance on cleaner energy sources (wind, solar, nuclear, hydro power and storage) will overtake fossil fuels (coal and gas fired power generation) this year. This marks a historic achievement in Britain’s journey towards the UK Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050, demonstrating leadership in addressing a global challenge.

In May, Britain clocked up its first coal free fortnight and generated record levels of solar power for two consecutive days, powering more than a quarter of the country’s daily electricity consumption.

John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid, said: “The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past ten years means we can now say 2019 will be the year net zero power beats fossil fuel fired generation for the first time. Having reached this landmark tipping point, the question is what are we doing today to get to net zero as quickly as possible?

We take our responsibility to run the UK’s electricity and gas energy systems, in accordance with our licence obligations, extremely seriously. We seek to maintain the integrity of these systems while keeping energy costs down for UK homes and businesses. But as we look to the future we are proud to champion world-leading feats of British engineering as we move to a net zero power grid.

The interconnectors that connect our electricity grid into Norway’s hydro power are part of this story, as is having the know-how to bring renewable generation onstream to complement conventional sources of generating power. This will help accelerate our progress towards delivering cleaner, greener energy for Britain’s homes, our travel and our work as quickly as possible.”

Britain’s energy system is in the midst of a rapid and complex transformation, and National Grid is playing a key role in that historic change. The continued move to a clean power system will require significant upgrades to the transmission network, and National Grid is investing around £1.3bn each year to support this transition. Huge strides are also being made in areas such as carbon capture and storage and investing over £2bn in new interconnector projects. 2019 marks a turning point. Several significant achievements have helped zero carbon beat fossil fuels so far this year, including the fact that 64.5 per cent of electricity imported to Britain through under water cables, called interconnectors, has come from zero carbon sources.

But as Britain powers towards a new era of clean energy, public concern about climate change is at an all-time high[ii]. New research commissioned by National Grid found that “climate anxiety” is exacerbated by a perceived lack of urgency around addressing the problem and the impact this will have on future generations. Nearly seven out of ten (69 per cent) of Brits who are concerned about climate change said it was because they believe it’s not being addressed urgently enough. Unaddressed, over a third (38 per cent) of young people said their concerns about climate change would drive them to join a protest, and nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of 18-24 year olds said they are prepared to skip school or work to do this.

The research also identified a demand for clearer information on what action is being taken to reduce emissions. Nearly three in five (56 per cent) Brits worried about climate change stated that more information from government and businesses about what action is being taken would help address their concerns, and almost half (49 per cent) would like regular reporting on Britain’s progress in tackling climate change.In response, National Grid is publishing data that sets out Britain’s transition to a cleaner energy mix in ways that reach a wider audience through a new website: www.nationalgridcleanenergy.com.

By 2030, National Grid will have at least six interconnectors operating in Britain, through which 90 per cent of electricity imported will be from zero carbon sources.

Even sooner, by 2025, National Grid’s interconnectors will provide enough energy to power eight million homes via zero carbon sources. This network of European sub-sea, clean energy super-highways will help to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions from the power sector by approximately 17 per cent (6.0 million tonnes) by 2030 – accelerating our journey to net zero.

National Grid’s fifth under water electricity cable, the North Sea Link, will plug British homes into Norway’s biggest hydro-dam – known as Europe’s green battery – and one hundred per cent of the electricity travelling through it will be from zero carbon sources. The world’s longest interconnector at 720km is being painstakingly laid between Blyth in Northumberland and the Blasjo reservoir in Kvilldal, where the biggest hydro power plant in Northern Europe sits amongst Norway’s fjords. When the team of hundreds of engineers from National Grid and Statnett, the operator of Norway’s power grid complete construction in 2021, the interconnector will enable both countries to share zero carbon electricity more efficiently, accelerating Britain and Norway’s progress towards a net zero emissions target.