Just before Christmas, the Government released energy/electricity statistics for the third quarter of this year (Q3 2016). The figures showed that fifty per cent of the electricity generated during Q3 came from “low-carbon” sources, half from nuclear and half from renewables and less than 4 per cent from coal.
While the total renewables figure of 25 per cent, or TWh 18.8, is impressive, it is worth bearing in mind that the figure for Q4 2015 was 23.7 TWh, an all-time record. But the point is that Q4 has been the highest quarter for each of the last few years. For capacity is added during the year and the increased volume of wind in Q4 and Q1 more than compensates for the drop in solar.
Within the total of 18.8 TWh generated from renewables in Q3, on-shore wind accounted for 4.6 TWh and off-shore wind for 3.5 TWh, or increases of 19.4 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively, reflecting a combination of higher wind speeds and increased on-shore wind capacity. Hydro, at 1.1 TWh was up 10.8 per cent, partly as a result of a 56 per cent increase in rainfall and the figure for solar PW, 3.5 TWh, turns out to be the same as the figure for off-shore wind. But, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the largest “renewable” component (6.1 TWh) is derived from “Bioenergy, including co-firing.” For “co-firing” includes Drax, the huge power station in the north of England, which is turning to wood chips to replace coal in some of its plants.
Hence the decline of coal was, perhaps, more predictable. Total demand for coal in Q3 2016 was 2.6 million tonnes, 62 per cent lower than Q3 2015. The last deep coal mine, Kellingley, closed on 18 December 2015, and, with this and other reductions in capacity, consumption of coal by electricity generators fell to a new low of 1.2 million tonnes, a reduction of 76 per cent by comparison with Q3 2015.