Nuclear and Renewables Partnership Shows Path to Climate Goals

Britain remains dependent on fossil fuels, but regions with both nuclear and wind power are already reaching 2030 decarbonisation targets, according to analysis conducted by the Nuclear Industry Association of figures published by the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO).

Southern Scotland, North East England and North West England had the cleanest power, hitting the UK's 2030 electricity decarbonisation target of 50-100g CO2 per kWh of electricity on more than 85% of days in 2020. Southern Scotland had a mean daily carbon intensity of 43g, North East England 47g, and North West England 53g.

Southern Scotland and North West England both have two operational nuclear power stations alongside substantial renewable capacity, while North East England is home to Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station and a number of wind farms.

Great Britain as a whole averaged just over 180g and only hit the 2030 target on 13 days. Gas remains the leading source of both power and carbon emissions, passing 60% of daily generation at times in June, August and September. Coal was burned in both summer and winter months to top up supplies, as fossil fuel use soared during times of high demand.

Carbon intensity peaked over 300g on 21-24 January and 4-6 March, but also approached 300g in late August and mid-September when weather conditions squeezed supply and drove demand.

Nationally, nuclear power was the leading zero-carbon generator on 158 days out of 358 days (44%) for which data is published, with wind power leading on the other 200 days. The nuclear fleet produced the most clean power in April, May, June and July, with wind leading in the other eight months. Seven of the UK's eight nuclear power stations, however, are due to retire by 2030, with the first four due to be in defueling by the end of March 2024.

Commenting on the analysis, Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said,

“Nuclear power, in partnership with renewables, is essential to reaching net zero. We should re-create what we have achieved in Northern England and Southern Scotland across the country: getting nuclear and renewables working together to cut emissions. To do that, we need to build new nuclear power stations alongside renewable capacity. These figures show the great service our existing fleet has rendered to the nation, but the time has come to build a new fleet. That investment, as part of a robust zero-carbon mix, will kickstart a green recovery and our transition to a green economy. ”

The Climate Change Committee estimated in its Sixth Carbon Budget that without new projects, zero-carbon generation will fall from 130 TWh in 2020 to just 90 TWh in 2030 because of nuclear fleet retirements.

Additional statistical highlights from the data include the following:

  • Northern Scotland hit the 2030 electricity decarbonisation target on 66% of days with an average of 84g, but its carbon intensity was much more volatile, at times reaching over 300g without nuclear power to stabilize the grid.
  • Yorkshire, the East Midlands and South England, regions defined by National Grid, did not meet the 2030 target at all, and London, South East England and South Wales met the 2030 target on only a very small number of days. All of these regions had no nuclear generation and limited renewable deployment and so relied on fossil power.

Carbon Intensity - Averages and Spread

Carbon Intensity (gCO2 / kWh)

Mean

Maximum

Minimum

Median

South Scotland

43.4

178

1

30.5

North East England

47.1

168

2

38.5

North West England

53.4

178

2

45

North Scotland

83.9

323

0

61

East England

142.6

320

24

135.5

West Midlands

155.5

362

34

147.5

GB

180.1

343

79

176

North Wales & Merseyside

181.2

555

27

144.5

London

183.6

337

47

177.5

South East England

195.3

334

98

189

South West England

200.5

370

25

206.5

South england

241.4

371

114

242

Yorkshire

252.6

415

115

253

East Midlands

288.4

506

123

285

South Wales

304.7

488

34

324

 

                        Ranking on the Mean:

1. South Scotland

2. North East England

3. North West England

4. North Scotland

5. East England

6. West Midlands

7. North Wales & Merseyside

8. London

9. South East England

10. South West England

11. South England

12. Yorkshire

13. East Midlands

14. South Wales

                       Ranking on the Median:

1. South Scotland

2. North East England

3. North West England

4. North Scotland

5. East England

6. North Wales & Merseyside

7. West Midlands

8. London

9. South East England

10. South West England

11. South England

12. Yorkshire

13. East Midlands

14. South Wales

Comparison against 2030 100g / kWh CO2 Carbon Intensity target

# days in dataset: 358

# days on target

Percentage

North East England

339

94.70%

South Scotland

318

88.80%

North West England

318

88.80%

North Scotland

236

65.90%

East England

110

30.70%

North Wales & Merseyside

99

27.70%

West Midlands

93

26.00%

South West England

69

19.30%

London

24

6.70%

GB

13

3.60%

South Wales

5

1.40%

South East England

2

0.60%

Yorkshire

0

0.00%

East Midlands

0

0.00%

South england

0

0.00%

 

Source:  https://www.niauk.org/

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