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UK renewables overtake fossil fuels; 720km electricity cable laid between UK and Norway

Image credit: pa

For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, more of Britain’s electricity production will come from zero-carbon energy sources than from fossil fuels, according to the National Grid.

The claim is based on annual power generation data from the last decade, which shows Britain’s increasing reliance on cleaner energy sources (wind, solar, nuclear, hydro power and storage) that will overtake fossil fuels (coal and gas-fired power generation) this year.

In May 2019, Britain clocked up its first coal-free fortnight and generated record levels of solar power for two consecutive days, powering more than a quarter of the country’s daily electricity consumption.

In 2009, three-quarters (75.6 per cent) of electricity generation came from fossil fuels - coal and gas - and just 22.3 per cent was zero-carbon.

In the first six months of 2019, zero carbon sources made up 47.9 per cent of the mix, overtaking fossil fuels which were at 46.7 per cent, National Grid said.

National Grid CEO John Pettigrew said: “The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past ten years means we can now say 2019 will be the year net-zero power beats fossil fuel-fired generation for the first time.

“Having reached this landmark tipping point, the question is: what are we doing today to get to net zero as quickly as possible?

“We take our responsibility to run the UK’s electricity and gas energy systems, in accordance with our licence obligations, extremely seriously. We seek to maintain the integrity of these systems while keeping energy costs down for UK homes and businesses. As we look to the future, we are proud to champion world-leading feats of British engineering as we move to a net-zero power grid.”

The National Grid also announced that it is laying a 720km cable between the UK and Norway as one of a series of grid connections with other countries that will help reduce carbon emissions from the British power sector by 17 per cent by 2030.

A converter power station is being built to help transmit electricity from Norway’s hydropower to the British grid

Image credit: pa

A converter station is being built on the edge of a peaceful lake at Kvilldal, western Norway, which will enable cheap electricity generated by a hydro-power plant situated deep inside the Norwegian hillside to be transmitted to the UK.

Cables from the converter station, which is linked up to the Norwegian grid next to the hydro-power plant, are being laid through the lake and a newly-blasted tunnel to the nearby fjord and then out to the North Sea.

They will carry the renewable power under the sea to another converter station at Blyth, Northumberland, where it will enter the British grid.

The 15cm-wide cables will be able to transmit 1,400 megawatts of electricity - enough to meet the peak winter power demand of three cities the size of Newcastle.

The £1.8bn collaboration between National Grid and Statnett will also allow extra power from British renewables to be 'stored' in Norway’s vast Blasjo reservoir, known as 'Europe’s green battery'.

The reservoir, constructed with a series of dams high up in mountains capped with snow and lakes, stores water from rainfall and snow melt as part of a vast hydro-power network with a 2,000sq/km catchment.

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