Coal collapse as gas and renewables the UK power gen winners in Q3

Energy data specialists EnAppSys has provided a dramatic snapshot of the UK’s power generation profile, demonstrating the downward spiralling fortunes of coal power and the ongoing rise in renewables penetration.

The third quarter of 2015 saw energy generation output from Britain’s coal-fired power stations fall 54 per cent from the same period in 2012 as a result of lower gas prices and increased renewable generation.

Figures included in the third quarter GB Electricity Market Summary, from EnAppSys, showed that during the July-September period coal-fired power plants provided 12.6TWh of generation or 17.8 per cent of Britain’s 32 GW total average daily electricity output. This represented a 24% reduction from the previous quarter.
Paul Verill
The period saw gas-fired (CCGT) plants generate the most power output (32 per cent) of any fuel type, contributing 22.6TWh over the period; a daily output of 10.2 GW. This represented a 15 per cent increase on the previous quarter but remained 40 per cent down from the CCGT generation peak in Q3 2009.

The main drivers in terms of overall reductions in output from coal-fired plants were normal summer maintenance outages, but also their displacement by gas and renewables.

The period saw a 31 per cent increase in renewables generation from the same period in 2014, with an average daily output of around 6.5 GW, representing 20 per cent of total output.

This growth in renewable generation has in part been driven by large increases in solar capacity. Developers have accelerated the building of solar farms to meet subsidy scheme deadlines. Britain has also seen higher than expected wind generation over the normally calmer summer months.

This growth in renewables has somewhat complicated the market resulting in increased levels of oversupply and uncertainty. However, the market is also showing signs of adapting to the resulting higher levels of renewable generation, particularly from solar PV during the day.

Levels of electricity demand over the quarter fell by 1 per cent to 28.8 GW, from the same period in 2014. This follows an on-going year-by-year trend of falling electricity demand, due to reductions in electricity usage and the growth in embedded generation at high-demand sites.

Overall during Q3 2015 CCGT produced 31.8 per cent of overall electricity generation, with nuclear plants providing 22 per cent, coal plants 18 per cent and interconnectors 8 per cent of overall generation.

Renewables contributed 20.2 per cent of total energy generation. Of this figure, wind produced 41 per cent, biomass 32 per cent, solar PV 20 per cent and 7 per cent from hydro plants.

Paul Verrill, director of EnAppSys, said: “Coal and gas-fired plants continue to provide the bulk of GB’s electricity generation, totaling 50 per cent of total electricity generated in Q3 2015. However, despite closures of coal-fired plants, it is unlikely that gas-fired plants will return to the levels of generation seen in 2009.

“Further plant closures within the GB electricity market look likely, as levels of generation at plants on the edge of the market remain low with a number of older gas-fired plants likely to drop out the market.

“With market conditions for conventional generation continuing to worsen, it is unlikely that these lost plants will be replaced within the market unless the payments under the capacity market encourages new build capacity, or the tightening reserve margin translates to consistently higher peak prices.”

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