2020 was a record-breaking year, with wind generation, solar, and coal-free records helping to make it the greenest year ever for Great Britain’s electricity network. The record for wind generation was broken on several occasions last year, with the final record set on 18 December when wind generated 17.2GW, National Grid ESO announced in its final statistics for 2020. Wind also set a new record for highest share in the energy mix on 26 August, when it contributed 59.9% of the nation’s electricity as Storm Francis hit. These records in the second half of the year are particularly impressive as wind got off to a strong start to the year as storms battered the UK, driving up generation. Storm Ciara in February for example pushed wind power to 44.26% of the power mix, breaking the record set the previous December. As well as generation growing in 2020, the commitment to wind also did, in particular with Prime Minister Boris Johnson setting a new target for 40GW of offshore wind by 2030. Onshore wind also received a boost, with the return of Pot One Contract for Difference (CfD) auctions, allowing the technology to compete for government subsidies for the first time since 2015.
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Coal and gas have routinely accounted for 60% of electricity generation in Britain over the past week, sparking concerns around the nation’s ability to maintain energy security in a low-carbon manner during winter weather conditions. The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) publishes data on the generation mix on Twitter every day. Combined percentages for coal and gas were the highest in the week beginning 4 January than they have been in almost a year; on Friday (8 January), coal represented 7% of generation and gas represented 52.5%. In contrast, coal provided just 1.6% of Britain’s electricity generation in 2020, down from around 25% in 2015. Britain broke several coal-free generation records in 2020. In total, the nation was powered coal-free for more than 5,147 hours during 2020, up from 3,666 hours in 2020. The longest consecutive coal-free streak lasted for two months and fell during the second quarter of 2020.
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