Britain enters top ten low-carbon power league

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Britain’s power supply is now the seventh cleanest in the world after climbing 13 places in a global league table, according to a new Electric Insights report.

The report was  produced by researchers at Imperial College London, who in collaboration with power giant Drax, compared the carbon content of electricity supplies across various large countries between 2012 and 2016.

They said the UK’s strong carbon price of £23 (€25) per tonne of carbon dioxide has driven a shift from coal to gas and an increased uptake of renewables, seeing emissions from electricity almost halve during the period.

Weaker carbon prices of around £5 per tonne in Europe mean Britain’s shift was the biggest for any country in the league table, according to the report.

Norway, Sweden and France have the cleanest power systems among large and industrialised countries due to their mountainous terrain allowing for substantial hydropower resources.

The Netherlands moved eight places down the leaders’ table as a result of building new coal-fired power stations.

According to the report, India and South Africa have the dirtiest power sectors on the list, with 75-90% of their power generated by coal.

Iain Staffell, from Imperial College London,  said: “Since we started Electric Insights a year ago we have seen a number of ‘firsts’ across the power sector and this quarter is no different – Britain has entered the world’s top ten low carbon power league for the first time.

“Britain is reducing its carbon emissions from electricity faster than any other major country, and this has happened because the carbon price and lower gas prices have forced coal off the system – the amount of coal-fired power generation in Britain has fallen 80% between 2012 and 2016.  In the Netherlands, coal-fired electricity output has risen 40% over the same period as generators only have to pay the much lower European carbon price.”

Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO, said: “The analysis by Dr Staffell and the team at Imperial College London shows quite clearly the impact Britain’s carbon price has had in terms of helping to ensure we produce cleaner power for the UK’s homes and businesses.

“It’s therefore vital that we maintain a meaningful carbon price when the Chancellor announces the Autumn Budget, if we are to meet our commitments on climate change. Without it we could see a reversal of the impressive results achieved so far – look at what’s happened elsewhere.”