UK cuts power sector emissions faster than any other country

The UK’s power sector has slashed its carbon emissions by around two-thirds over the last decade, which is more than any other country has achieved during that time.


That is according to a new study by Imperial College London (ICL), which reveals that Britain’s power emissions fell from 161 million metric tonnes in 2010 to 54 million in 2019.

A 13% decline in electricity demand was responsible for around one-third of the emissions reduction, while wind energy delivered approximately a quarter.

The fall in power demand came despite the population growing by 7% and GDP rising by a quarter, with carbon prices, coal retirements and biomass all helping to drive down emissions too.

“In the past decade, we’ve seen unprecedented changes in Britain’s power system, which has transformed at a speed never seen before," said ICL's Dr Iain Staffell.

“If this pace of change can be maintained, renewables could provide more than half Britain’s electricity by the end of this decade and the power system could be practically carbon free.”

The study – commissioned by energy firm Drax – also found that installed capacity of renewables was seven times higher in 2019 than in 2010.

Compared to 2010, biomass is saving an annual nine million tonnes of carbon emissions and £2.8/MWh in wholesale prices, versus six million tonnes and £2/MWh a year for solar.

Moreover, the findings show that biomass has produced 88.1 TWh of power over the last decade, compared to 59.86 TWh from solar, despite the latter having a far greater installed capacity.

“Replacing coal with sustainable biomass at Drax has cut our carbon emissions by more than 80%, transforming the business to become the largest renewable power generator in the UK," said Andy Koss, CEO of generation at Drax.

“As the UK strives to achieve its world-leading net zero carbon target, it’s clear the power system will have to continue evolving and many different solutions, including negative emissions technologies like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), will be needed alongside more renewables."


Image credit: ©iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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