UK lockdown provides opportunity to gain insight into managing renewable energy dominated grid

The collapse in demand for electricity during the COVID-19 lockdown, combined with a greater supply of solar power, has led to the UK not using coal-fired power plants to generate electricity for more than 25 days, according to UK Electric Insights. As of 29 April 2020, 24.7% of the generation came from gas-based generation, 11.5% from solar PV, 20.7% from wind, 0.9% from hydro, 29.5% from other generations, and 12.7% from interconnectors.

Somik Das, Power Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on the UK’s electricity grid

“The contribution of coal in the UK’s electricity mix has been witnessing a constant decline over the years. The collapse in demand for electricity due to COVID-19 is the main reason for coal-free electricity generation in the UK. Also, the summer months with high solar irradiation has ensured more solar power can be used to meet the country’s electricity needs. The decrease in demand is to the extent that in addition to coal-based generating units, authorities are planning to shutdown windfarms and some other power plants to avoid overloading the electricity grid.

“Since 2012, this has also been the first time that the amount of emissions required to produce one kilowatt-hour of energy has declined from 507g of CO2 equivalent to 161g of CO2 equivalent, pushing the UK towards achieving its net-zero emissions target by 2050. The UK, in its quest to become a net-zero emitter, will continue to add renewable capacity to the grid and will completely phase out coal from its generation mix by 2025. The present thermal cumulative installed capacity of UK is expected to be 47.9GW and by 2025 it is expected to be 44.1GW, according to GlobalData. If strict adherence to the addition of renewables is maintained, then the net-zero 2025 goal might be a possibility.

“It is events such as these that provide an insight into how a renewable energy dominated grid will be managed in the future.”

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