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    UK Cuts Emissions More in 2018: Govt


The power sector saw renewables grab over half the output, but this has consequences on low-demand, windy days.

by: William Powell

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UK Cuts Emissions More in 2018: Govt

The UK cut emissions by an estimated 3% according to provisional 2018 figures released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) March 28. The report noted that the savings stemmed mainly from the power generation sector and came even as the economy grew, while other countries are falling behind as global emissions increase.

Beis estimates UK emissions have fallen by 44% since 1990. Carbon emissions are now at the lowest level since before the turn of the 20th century. 

These emission reductions are underpinned by electricity from dirty coal power reaching record lows – now making up just 5% of electricity, down from 40% just 6 years ago. This puts the UK firmly on track to meet its target of phasing out coal completely by 2025, Beis said.

Power station CO2 emissions were estimated to be 10% lower than 2017 levels and transport CO2 emissions down 3%. Coal-fired power generation dropped to a record low of 5% of electricity last year, while electricity from low carbon sources (renewables and nuclear) hit a new record high of 53% of output.

Energy & Clean Growth minister Claire Perry said: "More than half of our electricity comes from low carbon sources thanks to more than £52bn ($68bn) of government support for renewable projects in the UK since 2010, all part of our modern industrial strategy."

Over the last quarter of 2018, renewable electricity's share of output came close to overtaking gas for the first time. These results come as the government signed an Industrial Strategy Sector Deal with the offshore wind industry which could see a third of electricity come from offshore wind by 2030.

Beis said there was more work to be done, an example being the finance minister's planned Future Homes Standard announced in his spring statement, to ensure houses had low-carbon heating.

Renewable energy disrupts prices: analyst

The UK power market saw imbalance prices – effectively a penalty for over or under generating power – turn negative for 13 consecutive settlement periods on March 24, a Sunday. Low electricity demand and high levels of wind output led the national power grid operator to reduce generation output from a variety of wind, combined cycle gas turbines and biomass power stations.

According to Cornwall Insight this will become commoner as intermittent renewables capacity rises. However, as yet these occurrences have not made a real impact on the wholesale power market. While there have been some occurrences on the within-day wholesale market, day-ahead auction prices have never fallen below zero, with the lowest being £1.57/MWh for a single one-hour block, which occurred in 2017," it said March 28.

“Sunday’s events highlight the increasing impact of price cannibalisation – the depressive effect that high levels of intermittent renewables output have on the wholesale power price – which can significantly reduce revenues for renewable generators.

“The cannibalisation effect will have a significant impact on the business case for new build renewables, as predictions that this phenomenon is set to increase have lowered projected revenues for merchant plant and hindered the ability for offtakers to offer investible floor prices in long-term power purchase agreements," it said. "....Given other changes likely to impact the sector in the next ten years – from vehicle to grid to peer-to-peer trading – the wholesale market as we know it already looks set to dramatically change.”