Nuclear Energy still shines in the UK
On Friday 26 May more than 60% of electricity generation in the UK came from low carbon sources. By far the largest single source was nuclear energy. However, that might not be the impression gained from news reports that day, such as the FT's Solar outshines nuclear as spring sun boosts UK output and BBC News's UK achieves solar power record as temperatures soar. This briefing examines that facts behind this. It also examines what generation option has the greatest potential for securing further greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Many of the news reports that day focused on the peak of solar generation, around midday when the sun shone strongest. At this time about 24% of electricity generation in the UK was supplied by solar, a fraction more than the 23% supplied by nuclear energy. But, as the chart below shows, using data from Gridwatch, solar generation only exceeded nuclear generation for around three hours. Away from this peak solar output declines rapidly, whereas nuclear generation remains near-constant throughout the day.
Both nuclear energy and solar made valuable contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the UK on 26 May. Solar is particularly useful in meeting the additional requirements of the increased use of electricity in the daytime. But because nuclear energy generation displaces fossil generation over the whole 24 hours of the day a doubling the UK's capacity of nuclear generation would have been more effective in reducing greenhouse gas emission than the same increase in solar capacity.
Full very detail report and summary from Jonathan Cobb, Senior Specialist, World Nuclear Association