12 May 2023
Renewable power generated from wind, solar, hydro and biomass sources reached a record high share of the UK’s electricity generation in Q1 2023 accounting for 44% of the mix – excluding imports (1).
Although renewable power output was virtually unchanged at 26TWh from the same quarter last year, wind and solar output increased by more than 9% year-on-year.
When looking at the heating season (October 2022 to March 2023), wind power also produced a record high share of the UK’s energy at 31% (excluding imports).
Wind is regarded as one of the cheapest power generating technologies and it continues to attract substantial amounts of support and investment. For instance, the UK government’s fifth Contracts for Difference (CfD) funding round includes £170m for established technologies such as offshore wind (2).
The increase in wind output coincided with reduced gas usage for electricity generation. Demand for gas decreased by 5% in Q1 2023 vs the same period in 2022. Overall, gas continues to account for around 40% of the energy mix in the UK.
Nuclear saw a 22% decrease in output this quarter when compared to the same period in 2022. Lower nuclear generation was driven partially by Sizewell B (1.2 GW) being offline since mid-February for a refuelling and maintenance programme. However, nuclear remains vital to the UK with the Chancellor of Exchequer recently announcing a fresh push into nuclear power and plans to classify it as “environmentally sustainable” to attract private investment (3).
In Q1 2023, the UK returned to being a net importer of electricity, in contrast to much of 2022 when the country became a net exporter as a result of extreme energy market conditions (4).
The UK imported 9.3TWh of power from the continent during the first quarter of this year, which accounted for 13% of the total generation mix. The bulk of this came from France and Norway via interconnectors.
(1)UK power generation by fuel type: BMRS Reports Elexon and solar generation from Sheffield Solar
(2)UK Government confirms £205 million budget for first annual CfD auction, Current News 16 March 2023 https://www.current-news.co.uk/uk-government-confirms-205-million-budget-for-first-annual-cfd-auction/
(3)Jeremy Hunt wants nuclear power classed as ‘sustainable’: is it?, The Guardian 16 March 2023 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/16/jeremy-hunt-wants-nuclear-power-classed-as-sustainable-is-it
(4)GB becomes net importer of electricity in Q1 2023, says EnAppSys, Current News 26 April 2023 https://www.current-news.co.uk/gb-becomes-net-importer-of-electricity-in-q1-2023-says-enappsys/
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