UK’s electricity grid has decarbonised faster than other countries, says report

The UK’s electricity grid has decarbonised faster than other countries in the last decade, with emissions falling twice as quickly as on any other major economy, according to a new report.

Independent analysis conducted via Imperial Consultants, by academics from Imperial College London for Drax Electric Insights, shows the UK’s move away from coal to renewable sources, such as biomass and wind, has ‘dramatically’ driven down carbon emissions.

The report found renewable power has grown six-fold in the last 10 years, helping the UK to cut its carbon intensity by 58% - double the reduction seen in other major economies over the same period.

Power generation from coal fell from 30% to just 2% over the period, with renewables rising simultaneously from 8% to supplying 42% of the UK’s electricity.

The shift to renewables means UK households have each reduced their CO2 emissions by three-quarters of a tonne per year compared to the start of the decade, roughly equivalent to the CO2 generated by a family of four taking a return flight from the UK to Spain.

Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, lead author of the quarterly Electric Insights reports, said: “The UK has decarbonised its power grid at an astonishing rate.

“Over the last decade, the country has transformed itself from relying on coal to keep the lights on, to having its first coal-free month since the industrial revolution.

“While this progress in the power sector has been rapid, now we need to decarbonise wider society by using electricity to heat our homes and power our cars to achieve net-zero by 2050.

“As the world marks five years since the Paris Agreement the UK offers an example of how fast energy transitions can be made.”

“The UK has made incredible process decarbonising the electricity system over the last decade,” said Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner, “for its part, Drax has drastically reduced its carbon emissions by 85% as a result of transforming the power station in North Yorkshire to use sustainable biomass instead of coal, making it the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.

“We share the government’s ambition to go even further. By embracing bioenergy with carbon capture and storage and flexible technologies like pumped hydro storage, we will enable the UK’s power system to evolve and provide the secure and sustainable electricity supplies a zero-carbon economy needs, supporting the government’s ten-point plan for climate change, while levelling up the economy.”

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