Coal generation fell to a record low in May, supplying just 1TWh of power during the month, new figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have revealed.
It was down by 72 per cent year-on-year during the second quarter of 2016 at 4.3TWh. Its share of total output fell to a mere 6.8 per cent – the lowest level in 21 years.
The fall was the result of a reduction in coal-fired capacity, the department said, in part due to Drax’s conversion of a third unit to co-firing biomass. Accordingly, bioenergy generation during the quarter rose by more than 10 per cent on same period last year to 4.1TWh.
The drop was offset by a 57 per cent increase in gas-fired generation. During April, May and June, gas plants supplied a majority of all power – 31.8TWh out of a total of 62.6TWh.
In addition to the Drax conversion, coal capacity has also been slashed by a series of plant closures since the beginning of this year. Longannet and Ferrybridge both shut down in March and Rugeley closed towards the end of June. Eggborough has also exited the main energy market, although the plant has remained open to provide balancing services to National Grid over the coming winter via the Supplemental Balancing Reserve.
Winds-generated supply fell to 5.9TWh during the second quarter – a 14 per cent decrease on the same period last year. Offshore generation was down 9 per cent at 3.3TWh, and onshore generation dropped by a fifth. The decline was the result of lower average wind speeds when compared with same period last year.
An increase in installed capacity meant solar supplies were up 16.5 per cent at 0.7TWh, despite a drop in average sun hours. Reduced rainfall led a 42 per cent reduction in hydropower suppliers; at 0.6TWh, it was the lowest level in almost two years and the second lowest level this decade. Renewables’ collective share of overall generation was down by 1.4 percentage points at 18.1 per cent.
The December closure of the Wyfla plant on Anglesey in North Wales resulted in a 1.5 per cent reduction in nuclear generation to 15.1TWh. Low-carbon generation (renewables and nuclear) supplied 42.3 per cent of the UK’s electricity during the second quarter.
Interconnector imports accounted for 7.4 per cent of electricity supplies, down from 7.5 per cent a year ago.