Boris slammed as energy crisis sees UK return to 'dirty' coal-burning to keep lights on


Like the rest of Europe, when Britain recovered from the pandemic, energy demands soared. However, low winds speeds meant that the UK had to burn more coal just to keep the lights on. According to figures from National Grid ESO, the electricity system operator, the “carbon intensity” of the power system, which is a measure of emissions per unit of electricity supplied, has rebounded from 2020’s historic lows.

Provisional analysis of the electricity mix found that the UK increased both it’s gas and coal-fired power generation in 2021.

Data, analysed by Carbon Brief also shows that the production of renewable sources of energy, including nuclear and wind energy, decreased this year.

Even though the demand for electricity has bounced as the economy recovered from the lockdown restrictions of 2020, it still remained well below the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

Britain’s electricity mix has changed dramatically in the past decade, as a result of the country chasing after its climate goals.

In 2013, coal was the biggest source of power generation for the UK.
But since then, most old coal-fired plants have been shut down, being replaced by gas as the dominant fuel source in recent years.

Figures from the National Grid ESO reveal that the carbon intensity of the electricity mix fell steadily from 529 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour in 2013 to 181g in 2020.

However, it rose significantly to 187g within the first 11 months of 2021.

As people turn on their boilers and heating systems, December will likely be a carbon-intensive month.

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Another major reason for the high carbon emissions is the fact that ​​2021 is believed to have had the lowest wind speeds in more than a decade.

Furthermore, nuclear power generation has been steadily falling by almost 10 percent year-on-year to the lowest levels since 1982 because of problems with ageing reactors.

Simon Evans, the deputy editor at Carbon Brief, said: “Coal power is still on the way out in the UK, even though this year hasn’t been very windy and demand has increased as the economy recovers from Covid lockdowns.”

The Prime Minister will no doubt be disappointed after hosting the COP26 climate change conference in November.

He hopes to make Britain the “Qatar of hydrogen” and has outlined the UK’s Hydrogen Strategy as a core part of his “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution”.

Mr Johnson is keen to transition away from fossil fuels to power the economy.


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