The chart above shows the stunning change in the UK’s electricity generation mix over the last century. 100 years ago coal was king, whereas today it’s a small and shrinking part of the mix.
Hydro electricity began to take-off in the 1930’s, but didn’t put much of dent in coal’s dominance.
The Calder Hall nuclear power station which opened in 1956 was the world’s first power station to generate electricity on an industrial scale (four 60 MWe reactors) from nuclear energy and launched the UK’s nuclear industry.
And by 1962 nuclear became the UK’s number 2 source of electricity generation, surpassing hydro, but remained well behind coal.
Then starting in the 1990s natural gas plants started coming online, but wasn’t until 2008 that they overtook coal as the biggest source of electricity generation in the UK.
Imports today come from the Channel Cable (Interconnexion France Angleterre) interconnector between the UK and France, the BritNed cable between the UK and the Netherlands, and the Nemo Link between the UK and Belgium.
To put all this in context here are the sources of the UK’s net generated electricity 2018 (latest available and excluding imports) look compared to 1990.
- Gas: 39.5% (0.05% in 1990)
- Nuclear: 19.5% (19% in 1990)
- Wind: 17.1% (0% in 1990)
- Biomass: 10.4% (0% in 1990)
- Coal: 5.1% (67% in 1990)
- Solar: 3.9% (0% in 1990)
- Hydroelectric: 1.6% (2.6% in 1990)
- Oil and other: 2.9% (12% in 1990)
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