News / Power consumption slumps in Q1 2020 – see Drax Electric Insights Report

Power consumption slumps in Q1 2020 – see Drax Electric Insights Report

29th May 2020

Right now, Great Britain’s electricity system is changing at a rapid pace. With pressures to decarbonise, replace old technologies with new, lower carbon ones and all while keeping costs as low as possible.

For public and businesses alike, in order to understand these changes, we require a better understanding of the electricity system itself. But with hundreds of sources of information on UK generation and demand, it can often be a harder job than once thought. Electric Insights aims to simplify this task.

What is Electric Insights?

Electric Insights provides data visualisations and analysis of supply and demand, price and the environmental impact of Great Britain’s electricity. Established by Drax Group, it helps to inform and enlighten this ongoing debate on Britain’s electricity. Using only publicly available data, it’s an independent and transparent analysis compiled by academic researchers.

The website gives an overview of current electricity demand, price and carbon emissions, as well as what sources are powering Great Britain.

You can explore the data further with the full Electric Insights dashboard. Here, you can see historical data back to 2009, and toggle with options to present the data you’re most interested in viewing.

Electric Insights quarterly report

Every quarter, Drax releases an Electric Insights report written by Dr Iain Staffell, a senior lecturer in Sustainable Energy at Imperial College London, via the university’s consultancy, Imperial Consultants. Each of these reports digs into the data of the previous 3 months in attempt to explain the changes our electricity systems are rapidly experiencing. Individual articles are often the result of a collaboration between Iain, academics from other specialisms or key industry figures.

You can see the latest Electric Insights report here. Key headlines from this edition include:

Under lockdown, every day is a Sunday

As the UK entered lockdown on the 23rd March to tackle the Coronavirus, businesses were forced to either move staff to work from home or shut down for an unknown period. As such, there was a huge impact on electricity demand, with consumption on weekdays falling by 13% - the lowest levels since 1982. The chart below shows this huge decrease in daily average electricity demand, reflecting what you’d expect if we were to have a month made entirely of your average Sunday.

Image 1

A final fling with coal power

Two more of GB’s coal power stations closed on 31st March, meaning only 3 remain. 3.5GW of capacity was retired this quarter, leaving just over 5GW to remain. The chart below shows just how much this has changed in the last decade, with installed coal power station capacity at a steep 28GW in 2010.

Image 2

Wind surges to new records

Wind output was the star of the show this quarter, up 40% on this time last year. Some severe winter storms, giving the windiest February on record can be thanked for this increase.

Demand-side response to the rescue

Two cold, calm spells punctuated the record wind output last quarter. Demand-side response operated full force to help during the first event in January (shown below). It was much less prominent during the second event in March, giving very different consequences for the power system.

Image 3

Capacity and production statistics

There were some impressive figures in Q1, with wind farm capacity factors averaging almost 50% over the quarter – nearly double their long-run average. Fossil fuel generation was also down 25% this quarter on last year, however a need for these assets for times of high demand and low output from renewables is still clear.

Power system records

While the first quarter of 2020 was a strange one for all, it was positive to see so many records broken. Wind farms broke all records, including providing an average supply of 12.3 GW through February, way beyond its last record of 9.3GW in December. Biomass supplied more than a tenth of electricity over a day for the first time at the end of March, and we saw the lowest monthly-average power prices for a decade too.

Download the full Electric Insights report with the button below.

Download the Electric Insights report

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