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Wind energy achieves record to UK electricity contribution, while fossil fuel usage hits historic low

Newly released data from the Government reveals that wind power soared to unprecedented heights in 2023, accounting for a remarkable 28.7% of the nation's electricity needs —a significant 4% increase from the previous year. This surge underscores wind energy's pivotal role as the primary source of clean power in the UK, with renewables collectively delivering over 60% of the country's renewable electricity output during the same period.

The latest Energy Trends report by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) unveils an extensive transformation in the UK's energy landscape. Offshore wind, in particular, exhibited remarkable growth, contributing 17.3% to the electricity generation —a substantial leap from 13.8% in 2022. Similarly, onshore wind power saw a surge in its share, providing 11.4% of the nation's electricity —an all-time high for this technology.

In 2023, renewable generation reached 135 terawatt hours (TWh), maintaining a level largely consistent with 2022 despite challenges posed by adverse weather conditions, according to DESNZ. However, renewables' share of overall generation surged to a record 47.3%, representing a substantial increase from 41.5% in the previous year.

A noteworthy milestone occurred in the last quarter of 2023, with renewables setting a quarterly record by contributing 51.5% to UK electricity generation —an unprecedented feat. This marks the first instance where renewable sources surpassed the halfway mark, signifying a pivotal moment in the nation's energy transition.

Fossil fuels decline, solar generation resilience

Meanwhile, fossil fuels experienced a sharp decline, reaching their lowest point on record. Oil, gas, and coal collectively accounted for a mere 36.3% of the UK's electricity generation, marking a significant departure from the dominance they once held. Gas, in particular, which traditionally constituted a substantial portion of the energy mix, diminished to 34.3% in 2023 —a clear indication of shifting energy consumption trends.

In a groundbreaking turn of events, wind power surpassed gas to become the leading electricity generation source during the last quarter of 2023, comprising over 50% of the total generation —a first in the nation's history. This quarter also witnessed a record-breaking performance from renewables, collectively producing 39.9 terawatt-hours of electricity —an impressive 4.9% increase compared to the previous year.

Despite facing challenges such as lower average daily sunlight hours, solar generation displayed resilience, experiencing a 4.1% increase to reach 13.8 TWh in 2023.

Energy prices and energy future

DESNZ attributes these records partially to a decline in overall electricity demand and reduced domestic generation, driven by increased imports of electricity. The surge in energy prices in late 2022, coupled with a significant rise in UK imports amidst a rebound in French nuclear power output, necessitated a reduction in domestic electricity consumption. Consequently, fossil fuel generation plummeted to a historic low of 36.3% in 2023 —the lowest value since the 1950s— further solidifying the diminishing role of traditional energy sources in the UK's energy mix.

Ana Musat, Executive Director of Policy at RenewableUK, emphasizes the pivotal role renewables play in shaping the nation's energy future. Musat notes that renewables not only outstrip fossil fuels in meeting energy demands but also offer cost-effective solutions for consumers. She urges policymakers to capitalize on this momentum by accelerating the deployment of renewable energy projects through strategic initiatives like the Contracts for Difference auction.


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