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News from the UK Power Industry 2nd July 2019

Posted by: James Turner
Industry News

Clean energy overtakes fossil fuels in UK 

For the first time since the industrial revolution, more UK electricity will come from zero-carbon sources than from fossil fuels this year.

According to the National Grid, wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower are on course to outstrip supply from coal and gas-fired power stations after the closure of a number of older plants in recent years and a rapid expansion in renewable capacity.

Green energy sources have more than doubled their contribution to Britain’s energy mix from 22.3% in 2009 to 47.9% in the first half of 2019. The country has now reached a “tipping point” on renewable energy, National Grid said.

John Pettigrew, chief executive of the utility firm, described this as a “key milestone” on the journey towards the net zero emissions target recently set out by the government. “The incredible progress Britain has made in the past 10 years means we can now say 2019 will be the year zero-carbon power beats fossil fuel-fired generation for the first time,” he said.

“As the UK decarbonises and we’ve more intermittent wind, the opportunity – when we’ve got too much – to export to Europe means renewable sources will be better used and that’s beneficial to consumers in terms of cost.”

There are now just seven coal-fired power stations left in the UK, with the last one planned to close in 2025.

The dominant source of energy in the country has been in terminal decline for several decades, with the pace quickening since 2009. Coal now supplies just 2.5% of national electricity needs, down from 30.4% 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the cost of renewables has tumbled, with onshore wind and solar power frequently cheaper than fossil fuels. Full story.

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Milestone for Hinkley Point C 

EDF Energy has announced that the construction of the base for the first reactor at Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset is complete, marking its biggest milestone to date.

The Hinkley Point C plant is the first new nuclear plant in more than 20 years and is expected to produce approximately 3.2GWh of power for around six million homes from 2023. Completion of the base allows construction of nuclear buildings above ground to begin in earnest.

Hinkley Point C managing director Stuart Crooks said: “I am proud of the talent and achievement of our diverse UK workforce, our unions, our international supply chain and the design team in France. We are benefitting from direct experience from other EPR projects and a partner in CGN which understands the technology and the project.”

Construction of the second of Hinkley Point C’s two units is underway, with EDF Energy saying improvements in efficiency and good progress would help the second Hinkley Point C reactor “hit its own J-zero moment” in June 2020.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy nuclear minister Andrew Stephenson said: “This is a huge achievement for Hinkley Point C and a major milestone for the UK’s nuclear new-build industry, which as a low-carbon electricity source is key to meeting our ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“The project will not only power nearly six million homes, it will add an enormous boost to the local and national economy, delivering over 25,000 new jobs and securing long-term, well-paid employment – a key step in delivering clean growth as part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Almost 4,000 people currently work at Hinkley Point C, with around 60% of them coming from local areas. EDF has awarded £1.5bn of contracts and 64% of the project value is being spent with UK firms. The company has also hired 430 of an expected 1,000 apprentices, assessing and training 8,500 people at a nearby Construction Skills and Innovation Centre.

The Hinkley Point C milestone has been praised for providing a low-carbon energy source in the UK, as well as the number of new jobs created by the development. Full story.

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