Power generation from renewable sources reached record levels in Britain last year, according to a new report on the GB electricity market by Teesside energy data analyst EnAppSys.
The report showed that renewable output hit 129.0TWh over the year, accounting for almost one half (46%) of Britain’s total annual power mix. The record was driven mainly by a rise in wind generation, which totalled 79.2TWh and accounted for 61% of overall renewable output.
Conversely, nuclear power output in GB fell to the lowest level in several years. The 38.2TWh recorded last year was a decrease of 6.4TWh from the previous year and reflected the closure of Hinkley Point B and Hunterston during 2022 and the impact of outages which reduced generation from multiple nuclear units in 2023.
The trend of demand destruction continued, with demand declining to 26.0GW in 2023, down from 26.6GW in 2022. This decrease was driven primarily by high prices and mild weather.
Given the mild winter and high gas storage levels across GB and continental Europe at the end of 2022, the price of gas consistently declined throughout 2023 as supply concerns eased, except for occasional surges later in the year in response to events including strike actions in the Australian LNG facility, the announced closure of the Groningen gas fields, the outbreak of war in Israel, and the BalticConnector gas pipeline damage. The decrease in prevailing gas prices was reflected in wholesale electricity price trends last year. Year-on-year average day-ahead electricity prices fell 54% to £94.48/MWh, with prices in the peak and off-peak settlement periods decreasing by a comparable proportion.
In terms of international flows, GB returned to a net import position in 2023, with average net imports of 2.7GW having been a net exporter last year.
Paul Verrill, director of Stockton-on-Tees-headquartered EnAppSys – which is part of the Montel Group – said: “Our report highlights the growing trend of Britain producing more of its power from clean energy. Last year average renewable generation reached a new all-time high of 14.7GW, contributing 46% to the GB generation mix – up from 13.6GW in 2022. This increase reflected rising levels of installed generation capacity including the large Seagreen offshore wind project which became fully operational October 2023. The Dogger Bank project also began generating electricity late in the year, though not at sufficient levels to influence 2023 statistics; this is likely to be reflected in the 2024 figures.
“Average domestic demand in GB was the lowest in the last ten years, standing at an average of 26.0GW which represented a 2% reduction from the levels seen in 2022. Last year saw the lowest Q1 and Q3 demand since 2019, while demand in Q2 was the lowest for any recent year with the exception of Q2 2020, at the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown. Q4 however saw a slight increase in demand over the same period last year.
“The prevailing gas price fell throughout the year and this decline was mirrored in wholesale electricity prices. A few weekends of low demand coupled with high renewable output resulted in several periods of negative prices, particularly July 2, July 16, October 29 and the Christmas holiday weekend.
“To bolster security of supply through the winter period of 2022/23, Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) and Winter Contingency Contracts were tested regularly and activated for real events on one occasion for each service. DFS activated on January 23 and 24 while West Burton 1 and 2 were called into action under the winter contingency on March 7. In the last quarter of the year during the cold snap, DFS was activated on November 29 and December 1.”
Renewables generation (wind, biomass, solar and hydro) was the largest contributor to the GB power generation mix during 2023, accounting for 46% of the total output. Gas-fired generation made up 30.9% of the total, with nuclear (13.6%), imports (8.5%) and coal (1%) accounting for the rest.