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Britain’s fossil fuel use hit all-time low in 2023 – report

(Montel) Britain’s electricity system had its greenest year on record in 2023 as gas-fired plants were displaced by record clean imports, the first analysis of the annual power mix showed, The Times reported on Tuesday.

Fossil fuel generation fell to an all-time low, accounting for only 35% of the country’s electricity mix, down from 43% in 2022, according to the analysis of data from Drax Electric Insights by Iain Staffell, of Imperial College London.

The figures are based on data up to 18 December, combined with estimates for the final days of the year.

Imports surged to account for a record 9% of Britain’s electricity mix, driven by low-carbon nuclear power from France and renewable hydropower from Norway, according to the UK daily.

The trend reversed an unusual year in 2022, when Britain became a net exporter of electricity, helping the EU through the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as safety shutdowns of French nuclear plants.

“Because the French nuclear fleet has got back on its feet and is working properly, we’re importing that clean energy instead of burning a lot of gas in the UK,” Staffell said.

The result is that annual emissions are estimated to have fallen by 20% to a record low, beating the previous figure set in 2020 when the pandemic caused a collapse in demand. The carbon intensity of the grid – a measure of emissions for every unit of electricity used – was also lower than before.

The recordbreaking green year came despite a slight reduction in wind power output. “We’ve got a fair bit more installed than we had [in 2022], but it’s not been as windy,” Staffell said.

Power demand in the UK fell to a record low last year as high consumer energy prices compounded a long-term trend of declining usage driven by efficiency savings and reduced industrial demand.