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UK electricity grid falls to lowest ever carbon intensity on Bank Holiday Monday

The amount of carbon dioxide produced by Britain’s electricity network fell to its lowest level yet at lunchtime on Monday, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has said.

A combination of factors including sunny weather, blustery wind and low power demand due to the closure of workplaces over the Easter Bank Holiday saw carbon intensity drop to 39 grams per unit around 1pm on Easter Monday. The figure is the lowest the National Grid has recorded thus far.

The new record follows a general trend for UK electricity due to the plummeting cost of offshore wind and other renewables, as well as efforts to transition away from polluting fossil fuels like coal. Last year saw electricity generation from renewables overtake fossil fuels in the UK for the first time, with consistent below-average demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic enabling the grid to reduce its need for energy from natural gas.

Yesterday, wind power made up a chunky 39 per cent of the UK’s mix, with solar at 21 per cent and nuclear accounting for 16 per cent.

There was no coal generation on the grid and just 10 per cent of power was coming from gas plants, National Grid ESO said, with the remainder coming from other sources such as imports and biomass.

The previous record low for pollution from each unit of electricity generation - known as carbon intensity - was set on 24 May 2020, when it fell to 46g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour.

Fintan Slye, director at National Grid ESO, said: “This latest record is another example of how the grid continues to transform at an astonishing rate as we move away from fossil-fuel generation and harness the growth of renewable power sources.

“It’s an exciting time and the progress we’re seeing with these records underlines the significant strides we’re taking towards our ambition of being able to operate the system carbon free by 2025.”

Last week, Scottish Renewables announced that the country had met 97.4 per cent of its 2020 electricity from renewable sources, narrowly missing its 100 per cent target which was set in 2011.

In late 2015, the government pledged to phase out coal-fired power plants entirely by 2025. Scotland was already one step ahead, closing its final coal plant, Longannet power station, just a few months later.

Green campaigners have said the government needs to go further by rolling out a campaign designed to boost energy efficiency in homes. A £3bn package introduced last year goes some way toward achieving that aim, as part of the government's “build back better” Covid-19 recovery programme.

However, this package was scrapped last week, a mere six months after its launch, with low adoption from households and builders who complained of excessive red tape.

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