As the cost of wind energy has fallen, so it has emerged as a cost-leader and a job-creator of the type that free markets adore. That message hasn’t caught on in the White House, but it has elsewhere.
It’s ironic that just as the Trump administration – with its avowed philosophy of operating an unregulated free market – proposed what are effectively taxpayer-funded subsidies for the coal industry in the US, that analysis should be published in the UK that showed that coal-fired stations are making less and less contribution to power generation in the UK. In fact, on 1 October 2017, coal made no contribution to power generation whatsoever.
According to data from energy market monitoring firm EnAppSys this was the second such occurrence this year. On 21 April this year, the UK saw the first day of no coal generation since the industrial revolution, as coal was displaced by renewable generation.
While in April this was mainly from the high solar generation – averaging 1.7 gigawatts (GW) across the day and peaking at 5.2 GW, combined with a strong 2.1 GW biomass baseload contribution and 5.3 GW wind, on 1 October it was high wind generation (averaging 8.8 GW and peaking at 11.2 GW) which pushed out coal. This high wind generation also resulted in low prices in the market.
Wind power contributed to a second successive quarter in which the market in the UK saw over half of all power generation come from clean sources. In fact, in the three months to the end of September (Q3 2017), 47.3% of renewables generation came from windfarms according to EnAppSys.
The summer months of the year typically see reduced levels of wind generation, but with several offshore windfarms coming online and with windy conditions in the quarter, windfarms contributed 8.9 TWh of electricity. This helped to push up renewables’ share of total generation to 27.3% in the quarter.
Meanwhile the decline of coal, at least in the short-term, continued in Q3 2017 to see gas remain the primary fuel type – in contrast to many countries in Europe where coal remains the main source of power.
Strong levels of renewable output in the quarter meant that for the second quarter running an estimated 52% of generation came from clean power sources (nuclear or renewable). The 18.8 TWh generated by renewables was lower than the previous quarter but more than the 16.9 TWh generated by nuclear plants in the market.
Data from EnAppSys showed that levels of renewable generation continue to be underpinned by strong and consistent levels of wind generation, with windfarms providing 47% of the renewable total in the quarter. This came as several large new windfarms started to come online and windy conditions increased levels of windfarm utilisation.