Renewables generated enough energy to power every UK home this winter

Renewably produced electricity replaced more than a third of the UK’s entire annual gas demand for power generation this winter

Teesside Wind Farm near the mouth of the River Tees off the North Yorkshire coast of England. PA
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British renewables generated enough energy to power every UK home through the winter, an analysis has shown.

This winter more electricity was generated than gas, and between October 1 and February 28, power generated by wind, hydro and solar reached 47 terawatt-hours (TWh), the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said.

Gas power stations would have needed about 95TWh of gas to generate the same amount of electricity, equal to 110 tankers of liquified natural gas or the amount more than 10 million UK homes would burn over winter.

Renewably produced electricity this winter has replaced more than a third of the UK’s entire annual gas demand for power generation, the analysts said.

Without it, the UK would have had to burn more gas, which could have increased net gas imports by more than 22 per cent, including gas imported by pipeline.

“We’re seeing the old electricity system give way to the new, with renewables becoming the backbone and displacing more and more gas," said Jess Ralston, head of energy at the unit.

“Battery storage is ramping up faster than expected, boosting the UK’s energy security and leaving us less exposed to international gas markets. Lifting the ban on onshore wind will help.

"But with the US and the EU going gangbusters for renewables, eyes are on the government, the Chancellor and the Budget to decide how the UK stays an attractive market for the investments that will ultimately bring down bills.”

On Monday, Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps met US secretary Jennifer Granholm in London and said he wanted to commit the UK to greater energy independence through nuclear and renewables.

Mr Shapps and Ms Granholm want to wean western countries off Russian oil and gas to undermine President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

They said the huge rise in gas prices after the Russian invasion showed the need to hasten the move away from fossil fuels.

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Emma Pinchbeck, Energy UK’s chief executive, said “we must do everything possible” to encourage and speed up investment in low-carbon power.

“This analysis confirms the ever-growing contribution that homegrown renewable generation is making to power our homes and our businesses," Ms Pinchbeck said.

“We’ve seen the effect that record wholesale gas prices have had on customers’ bills over the last 18 months and it’s underlined the urgency of expanding our supply of cheap, domestic, clean power in order to remove our dependency on expensive fossil fuels — which will strengthen the country’s energy security, cut bills and emissions and boost economic growth.”

In 2022, UK renewables provided 38 per cent of the country’s electricity generation, nearly as much as gas at 40 per cent, and Britain became a net electricity exporter for the first time since 2010.

Most clean energy in the UK comes from wind power, which is most productive during the winter when winds are stronger.

Other sources of generation, including nuclear and biomass, generated 28TWh over the winter period, the intelligence unit analysts said.

Using gas power plants would have required 56TWh more gas, equal to almost five million homes’ annual gas demand or more than 60 LNG tankers.

Battery storage is set to grow 14-fold with the storage pipeline having increased by five times in the past year.

Europe’s largest grid-scale battery storage came online in 2022 and the UK’s pumped hydro storage capacity is set to rise by 130 per cent to 6.5GW.

The UK is still heavily dependent on gas. It supplies 40 per cent of its power and 85 per cent of its heating.

UK households have been badly hit by rising gas prices because they are the least energy efficient in western Europe, the International Monetary Fund said.

Updated: March 02, 2023, 3:50 AM