Great Britain’s windfarm electricity at record high in 2022 but gas use up too


Alex Lawson Energy correspondent

Fri, 6 January 2023 at 2:20 pm GMT

<img src="https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/yyjTm8C6nzCSN9FmATGOsg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3NjtjZj13ZWJw/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/085a5b80282ee6e69a1e609bf39fa0d4&quot; alt="<span>Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Windfarms produced a record amount of Great Britain’s electricity last year, although gas-fired generation also increased, National Grid has said.

Figures from the company’s electricity system operator (ESO) showed that wind-powered electricity accounted for 26.8% of generation in 2022, up from 21.9% the year before.

In late January last year, wind-powered electricity gained its highest ever share of the energy mix, accounting for 64% of generation.

Earlier this week, the ESO said that a new record for wind generation was set on 30 December, when 20.91 gigawatts (GW) were produced by turbines.

Renewable energy and nuclear power sources combined to generate 48.5% of Great Britain’s electricity, compared with 40% from gas and coal fossil fuels. The ESO said it was the second greenest year on record, behind only 2020.

However, gas-fired power stations, at 38.5%, reached a three-year high as the single largest source of generation during a year in which wholesale gas prices soared as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended international commodity markets.

During the Ukraine conflict, countries including the UK have delayed the closure of coal-fired power plants but also created new urgency in developing more renewable energy projects.Interactive

The ESO said: “The use of coal in our day-to-day energy mix has continued to decline, with coal responsible for only 1.5% of generation in 2022, illustrating the significant reduction that has taken place over the last 10 years, when coal represented 43% of electricity produced in 2012.”

Biomass accounted for 5.2% of generation.

Demand for power was lowest during the year in the early hours of 12 June, at 15 gigawatts, while the highest demand was recorded on 15 December at 5pm, at 46 gigawatts. That came during a cold snap that put a strain on Britain’s energy systems.

National Grid has embarked on the process of reworking electricity networks to better suit renewable power and connect up battery storage sites capable of storing electricity generated by wind and solar farms when the wind isn’t blowing or sun shining.

Ministers were forced to scramble last year to ensure back-up power plans were in place for winter in case cold weather or a sudden halt to Russian gas supplies caused power cuts.

However, those concerns are fading as recent mild weather and a subsequent fall in wholesale gas prices reflect an improving energy outlook this winter.

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