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Greenest year and Christmas ever as a decade of energy delivery dawns on Grimsby

FESTIVE lights were lit and turkeys cooked by the cleanest electricity mix ever on Christmas Day 2017 – rounding off a record breaking year for green energy in Great Britain.

Greenest year and Christmas ever as a decade of energy delivery dawns on Grimsby

A golden era for generation is now being toasted, with the heart firmly in the Humber. 

According to analysis of data by researchers at Imperial College London, in collaboration with regional power giant Drax, 2017 will be the cleanest year for electricity generation.

Carbon emissions from power generation were just 142g/kWh on Christmas Day – more than 10 per cent lower than on the special day in 2016.

Carbon emissions on Christmas Day 2017 were 75% lower than the monthly average due to lower demand, high winds and little coal generation

— MyGridGB (@myGridGB) December 30, 2017

Gas generators provided more than 30 per cent of the required capacity and coal provided just 1.4 per cent – compared to 17.9 per cent for gas and 7.1 per cent for coal in 2016. 

Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London said: “This was achieved in spite of generation from renewables being lower than on Christmas Day last year; mainly due the continued reduction in coal over this year, being swapped for gas power stations.” 

The low carbon Christmas comes after a whole host of renewables records were broken throughout the year and with much less coal on the system, helping to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions by around half of what they were five years ago.  Throughout the year renewable sources provided more electricity than coal for 90 per cent of the time, with wind farms alone beating coal for 75 per cent of the year.

Dr Staffell explained: “The carbon intensity of Britain’s electricity halved between 2012 and 2016 and we think that the 2017 figure will be at least another 10 per cent lower than last year’s record. This means the average British household produced 100 kg less CO2 this year than they did last year without having to lift a finger, all the changes are being made ‘behind the scenes’.” 

Electric Insights data also shows that January 17, 2017, was the ‘dirtiest’ day of the year, with carbon intensity reaching 398g CO2/kWh. Despite this, Britain’s carbon emissions have fallen sharply as renewables records were broken throughout the year.

Dr Staffell said: “Several real milestones were reached by renewable electricity throughout 2017 - we set a new record in March for renewable generation, which was then broken again in June. 

“It helped that wind speeds were relatively high during the year, so wind farm output was up by around one third compared to last year.  Also, electricity demand was a little lower, meaning that renewable output formed a bigger part of the mix.”

No coal was used in power stations for the first time in more than 130 years on April 22, 2017. “This was a huge milestone: the first day in which no electricity came from coal since the first steam-driven power station opened in the 1880s,” Dr Staffell said.

More offshore capacity came on line in 2017, with Race Bank fully built out in the Humber, as well as Burbo Bank Extension, Dudgeon and Galloper in UK waters.

Read more: Vessels serving offshore wind farms could make Hull their home too - council officer claims

February was a record breaking month for biomass with 2.1GW produced from biomass generation, while a new record for wind, solar, hydro and biomass power was made in the first three months of 2017, with 23.2 per cent of Britain’s power coming from these technologies over the first quarter.  

This record was then broken again in the next three months, with almost a quarter of the UK’s electricity between April and June being generated sustainably - wind, solar, hydro and biomass accounted for 24.9 per cent of the UK’s energy mix.

On May 26, a new solar record was made, with 3.1GW of energy produced throughout the day from solar – almost triple the yearly average of 1.2GW per day. 

June was the cleanest month of the year, with 188g per kWh of carbon emitted, compared to 339g per kWh in January – the dirtiest month. Dr Staffell said: “This is due to demand being lower, so we could make do with very little coal generation, and gas was much lower too.” 

December 8 saw a new record for wind energy, with 11.6GW of electricity from wind power produced over the day. 

Dr Staffell explained: “As with solar electricity, new capacity made it easy for the previous wind power record to be broken. 2017 was also a very windy year compared to 2016.” 

Interconnectors also had a record-breaking year, with the link to France reaching new highs for both imports and exports. March 26 saw 1,994 MW imported into Britain from France, while conversely November 16 saw 2,020MW exported from Britain to France.

Andy Koss, Drax Power chief executive, said: “Britain’s energy system is rapidly changing, as the Carbon Price Floor continues to force coal off the system and gas and renewables play an increasingly important role in helping to reduce carbon emissions – all year round. 

“At Drax we have upgraded half of the power station to run on flexible, reliable, sustainable biomass. Around 70 per cent of the power we produce is now renewable – enough for four million households.”

Immingham, home to the world’s largest biomass reception facilities, and Hull, handle the bulk of the imports. 

Mr Koss added: “We are also looking at repowering two of our remaining coal generating units with gas to provide up to 3.6GW of power and developing up to 200MW of battery storage. 

“With the four rapid response gas power stations we are developing, which will help to support the system and enable more renewables onto the grid, here at Drax we are playing an important part in helping to change the way energy is generated, supplied and used for a better future.”

National Grid’s control room said how there was 40 per cent wind generation on New Year’s Eve, peaking at 11.8 GW, and 75 per cent low carbon generation, including biomass and nuclear. 

This morning we had over 40% wind generation and 75% low carbon generation. Right now #wind power is generating an extraordinary 11.8 GW. A very windy end to 2017 and the #greenest year on record.

— National Grid Control Room (@NGControlRoom) December 31, 2017

RenewableUK’s executive director, Emma Pinchbeck, has told how she wants to see an ambitious sector deal for the offshore wind industry. 

“The New Year could be the first in a golden age for UK renewables,” she said.

This year marks a decade of offshore wind operations and maintenance out of Grimsby, and the work is only ramping up further.

Back in 2008 the first farms, the dual development of Lynn and Inner Dowsing, were completed, then under the ownership of Centrica. 

Four more developments on, nearly 1.5GW of capacity now installed, and Hornsea Project One will begin to emerge this year, as the final commissioning work is undertaken by developer Orsted on Race Bank - the major project of the past two years. 

While the initial development, three miles off the Lincolnshire coast, brought 194MW to shore, Hornsea will become the world’s largest at 1.2GW. It is, however, 75 miles from the East Yorkshire coast, bringing a new generation of working practices, vessels and requirements to the town, as employment edges towards 1,000.

Pictured above are the giant offshore substation jackets, currently at Dragados Offshore’s manufacturing facility in Spain. 

They are anticipated on site this year.

The first half of 2018 will also see a final investment decision from Innogy on its 860MW Triton Knoll offshore wind farm, with work set to begin immediately after, if positive. 

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