Renewables output in 2023 enough to power all UK homes

Electricity produced by renewable generation in the UK across 2023 would theoretically have been enough to meet the demand of every home in the country, according to a new report.

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The analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) Power Tracker shows that power generated by wind, hydro and solar is estimated to have reached over 90TWh, claimed to be sufficient to meet the UK’s domestic electricity demand. Generating the same amount of power using gas-fired power stations would have required over 180TWh of gas, according to the ECIU, equivalent to the volume needed to heat 15.5 million UK homes over the course of a year.

Despite this, the UK remains Europe’s most gas-dependent country, with 40 per cent of electricity and 85 per cent of home heating coming from the fossil fuel. Combined with inefficient housing stock, this dependence has given rise to the steep rise in energy bills in recent years, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent gas prices spiralling upwards.

“Every turn of an offshore wind turbine’s blades reduces our dependence on gas,” said Jess Ralston, head of Energy at ECIU.

“As the North Sea continues its inevitable decline, we’ll need to import ever greater quantities of gas, undermining our energy independence. The choice for the UK is stark. Boost British renewables or import more gas at a price we can’t control."

New figures published by Carbon Brief show that electricity from coal and gas plants in the UK fell by 20 per cent in 2023, with consumption of fossil fuels at its lowest level since 1957. The decline has been driven by a dramatic increase in renewable generation (up 600 per cent since 2008) coupled with a significant drop in overall electricity demand (down 21 per cent since 2008).

However, the UK’s drive towards net zero will likely see electricity demand double from current levels in the coming decades, as transport and heating gradually move away from fossil fuels and towards electric solutions such as heat pumps and EVs.

To that end, National Grid has announced it will accelerate 10GW of battery storage projects, with 20-30GW more storage capacity expected to connect by 2030 in its most ambitious scenarios. According to the ECIU, between winter 2021/22 and winter 2022/23, the pipeline of battery storage projects increased five times. Europe’s largest grid scale battery storage facility came online near Hull in 2022 and the largest battery storage scheme in the world recently had planning permission granted for a site near Manchester.