Britain’s electricity is now officially amongst the cleanest in the world. According to the latest Electric Insights report it has moved up 13 places in the global rankings to number 7 among large and industrialised countries in terms of the low carbon content of its electricity production.
The report, produced by researchers at Imperial College London in collaboration with Drax power station, shows Britain’s shift to be the biggest for any country in the league table. The analysis shows that the UK’s carbon price has helped deliver unparalleled carbon reductions – its charge on greenhouse gas emissions has driven an uptake in renewables and a shift away from coal to gas-fired power generation.
Dr Iain Staffell, from Imperial College London commented: “Britain is reducing its carbon emissions from electricity faster than any other major country, and this has happened because the carbon price and lower gas prices have forced coal off the system – the amount of coal-fired power generation in Britain has fallen 80% between 2012 and 2016. In the Netherlands, coal-fired electricity output has risen 40% over the same period as generators only have to pay the much lower European carbon price.”
The carbon price floor is set by the UK government. Power generators in the UK are charged £23 per tonne of carbon dioxide produced, compared to £5 per tonne in Europe. The six countries with lower carbon electricity production than Britain benefit from substantial hydropower resources or, in the case of France, a heavy reliance on nuclear.
Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO said: “It is … vital that we maintain a meaningful carbon price … if we are to meet our commitments on climate change. Without it we could see a reversal of the impressive results achieved so far – look at what’s happened elsewhere.”
Britain’s carbon emissions from electricity went down by 47% between 2012 and 2016, and the carbon impact of Britain’s electricity has fallen more than twice as fast as any other major economy.
By way of contrast, in the Netherlands, which has dropped eight places in the rankings, new coal power stations built between 2013 and 2016 have led to a dramatic increase in its coal consumption and carbon emissions.
Drax, for a long time a large contributor to UK emissions, has upgraded half of its power station in North Yorkshire to use sustainable biomass, transforming it to become the biggest single site renewable generator in the UK and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.
Norway, Sweden and France have the cleanest power systems among large and industrialised countries due to their mountainous terrain that allows substantial hydropower resources,in France a heavy reliance on nuclear powere, with 58 reactors. India and South Africa have the leas ‘clean’ power sectors on the list, with 75-90% of their power generated by coal.