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Solar Shines Light On Britain’s March Towards Low-carbon Future

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GB solar projects generated 46% more electricity in the first quarter of 2019 than in the same period last year, according to a new report

The report by energy market analyst EnAppSys revealed that solar farms produced 2.7TWh of clean energy in the three months to March 31 2019, up 43% on the previous quarter.

Solar's contribution helped the amount of clean energy derived from renewable sources to hit a record high in Q1 2019, highlighting Britain's march towards a green future.

In the first three months of the year, renewables generated 68% of the total volume of clean energy produced, with the remaining share coming from nuclear plants in the market.

Of the 27.2TWh of renewable energy generated, 16.6TW came from wind farms - a figure that comfortably exceeds the 13.1TWh produced by nuclear plants. The quarter also included a record high for levels of wind generation in a half-hour period, topping 15.1GW on February 9. Biomass plants produced 6.2TWh - up 8% from Q1 2018.

The move towards a low-carbon future - a trend that has dominated the GB power market in recent times - has been exacerbated by the declining influence of fossil fuels, which accounted for only 43% of total power generation across the quarter. Coal produced only 2.9TWh in this period, down 37.2% from Q4 2018 and 65% from the first three months of last year.

In the quarter, 39.5% of power came from gas-fired power plants, 33.4% from renewables, 16.0% from nuclear, 7.6% from imports and 3.5% from coal-fired plants.

Paul Verrill, director of EnAppSys, said: “The market continues to progress towards an increasingly green future and this evolution will be supported by news that National Grid is seeking to manage the system without any carbon emissions for a number of hours by 2025.

“Driving this progression is significant growth in levels of renewable generation which, on current trends, could overtake fossil fuels in the not-too-distant future.

“Wind farms were responsible for 60.8% of renewable generation in the quarter and this displaced conventional power stations from the market. Coal has effectively ceased to be a major fuel source in the market and now ranks below gas, nuclear, wind, imports and biomass as a fuel source of significance.”

Total demand during the quarter was down 4% from the 85.4TWh recorded in Q1 2018. Due to this lower demand, fewer thermal plants were online and this reduced average available margin in the system to 21.7GW over the quarter - lower than the 26.0GW recorded in Q1 2018.

Paul Verrill added: “This is still a fairly comfortable level of margin, which did not dip below 3.9GW in the quarter. This was lower than the 6.5GW minimum in Q1 2018 but higher than the 1.3GW minimum seen in Q1 2017, when units were out of the commercial market in Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR) and the system often became tight.

“Given this fairly comfortable system for much of the quarter, system prices have not seen any notable highs or lows. The average system price was £50.81/MWh, the minimum £-70.24/MWh and the maximum just £195/MWh.”


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