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UK requires more low-carbon generation to meet climate goal, analysts say

Source: Vattenfall UK (corporate.vattenfall.co.uk)

January 7 (Renewables Now) - Low-carbon generation in the UK would need to rise by 15 TWh each year until 2030 for the country to meet the nominal climate target for 2030, the Carbon Brief says.

The climate science-focused website shared this estimate as it reported, quoting figures from BM Reports and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), that low-carbon power generation in the UK went up by just 1 TWh in 2019. This is the smallest annual increase in a decade, as annual growth has averaged 9 TWh.

The Carbon Brief noted that in its attempts to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050, the UK may need to aim above the nominal target to keep power sector emissions below 100 grammes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kWh (gCO2/kWh). That target is now seen as the bare minimum and even on this basis the nation would need to expand low-carbon electricity generation.

The table below shows how much more low-carbon electricity the UK will need in the coming years in view of plans to retire most old nuclear plants in the 2020s.

Year Required new generation
2020 10 TWh
2022 43 TWh
2024 80 TWh
2026 98 TWh
2028 124 TWh
2030 162 TWh

The analysis shows that in 2019 low-carbon electricity generation stalled despite the fact that wind power rose by 8 TWh, or 14%. This has been offset by a 14% decline for nuclear energy due to ongoing outages.

Wind farms overtook nuclear energy for the first time ever in 2019 to become the country’s second-largest power source.

At the same time, coal fell below solar for the first time across a full year and accounted for just 2% of generation in 2019, which is the lowest share since centralised electricity supplies began to operate in 1882.

During the past year, the UK’s renewables continued to increase, reaching a share of 37% in 2019 compared to 7% in 2010. In the months of March, August, September and December renewables produced more of the UK’s electricity than fossil fuels.

Overall, UK power production declined by 3%, or 9 TWh, in 2019, which brought the total decrease since 2010 to 58 TWh.

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