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The UK’s ‘greenest’ summer

The forecast data is provided in a format that allows technology companies to build innovative apps and software around it

Wind, solar and nuclear power pushed GB's carbon intensity to record lows on 7 June this year
Wind, solar and nuclear power pushed GB's carbon intensity to record lows on 7 June this year

The UK has experienced the greenest summer on record, according to National Grid.


From 21 June to 22 September, almost 52 per cent of the country’s electricity generation was met by low carbon sources, compared to around 35 per cent four years ago.


The UK has already scored a number of energy firsts in 2017:

  • In April, it had the first working day since the start of the industrial revolution where UK electricity supplies were met without the need for coal generation
  • On 31 May, a record was set when a quarter of Great Britain’s energy demand was met by the seven gigawatts of solar power that was supplying electricity to the grid
  • On 7 June, renewable power met over 50 per cent of the nation’s electricity supply. Days later, large amounts of wind, solar, and nuclear power pushed Great Britain’s carbon intensity to record lows of around 90 gCO₂/kWh.

This news comes as the company launches innovative new software that forecasts the carbon intensity of electricity generation up to two days ahead, helping people to understand and control their energy use.


National Grid is working with the green charity, the Environmental Defense Fund Europe, and conservation organisation, WWF, to make the software openly available to the public.


WWF has used the data as the basis of an online tool which points users to the best times to turn on or turn off home appliances to minimise carbon emissions while the Environmental Defense Fund Europe is working on policy implications of having this data available and widely understood.


Shifting activities like dishwasher cycles or electric vehicle charges could help relieve pressure on the energy system, reduce the need to use back-up fossil fuel plants, and potentially reduce bills for households.


“We’re providing our forecast data in a format that allows technology companies to build innovative apps and software that could make a real difference to how and when people use energy,” said Duncan Burt, director of the system operator at National Grid.


He added: “Clear and concise information that can tell you in advance when’s best to turn on the washing machine, load the dishwasher or charge your car for example, is a step in the right direction towards a low carbon future. This technology puts people at the heart of it, helping everyone to use power when it’s greenest, and likely, more cost-efficient”.

“It’s been an exciting year managing the many ‘network firsts’ -- from a day where we operated the system with zero coal power, to one where over half of Great Britain’s energy demand was met by renewable generation -- and we’re just as excited to see what developments come off the back of making this data available for all”.


The programming software combines National Grid’s knowledge of the UK energy system with weather data from the Met Office to forecast the share of renewable and non-renewable energy that will be on the UK electricity grid over the next 48 hours, and the resulting carbon emissions. National Grid’s data has been verified by experts from Oxford University.


“This is the first time that carbon intensity data has been modelled to provide an accurate forecast for future carbon intensity,” said Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF. “All partners in the project have agreed to make the software, known as an application programming interface (API data) available so that tech developers can create consumer friendly applications.”


Bryony Worthington, executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund Europe, called on those operating in the electricity market, including suppliers, manufacturers, aggregators, regulators and policymakers, to take advantage of this innovative, free-to-use tool. “To deliver smart, resilient infrastructure that cuts pollution, boosts renewables and unlocks costs savings for consumers,” she says.


“Pioneering practical tools that work for people, business and the environment here in the UK will serve as a model for other countries looking to meet bold climate and energy goals.”


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