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Scotland has UK’s cleanest power mix in 2020

18 December 2020

Combination of wind, nuclear and hydro power puts Scotland in lead to meet 2030 clean power target. Torness and Hunterston B Underpin Zero-Carbon Generation

New analysis of National Grid Electricity System Operator figures has indicated that Southern Scotland has had the cleanest power in the UK in 2020, driven by higher nuclear generation alongside strong wind power output. Scottish nuclear generation has been more than 11 TWh so far in 2020, up from 10.5 TWh for the same period in 2019, a 5% increase driven by the restart of Hunterston B in August and September.

Analysis by the Nuclear Industry Association demonstrates that southern Scotland averaged a daily carbon intensity of 44g CO2/kWh through 16 December 2020, and hit the UK’s 2030 grid carbon intensity target of 50-100g more consistently than any other region

Since the full restart of Hunterston B nuclear power station in September, southern Scotland has stayed below the 100g target every single day. Great Britain as a whole has only reached this target on 11 days in all of 2020.

Hunterston B’s return to service has pushed Southern Scotland’s daily average down to 25g, even as the rest of the country has seen sharp increases in gas and coal use.

The northern part of Scotland, which has no nuclear power stations and relies heavily on gas, had an average daily intensity of 85g, almost twice that of the south of Scotland. Northern Scotland was also much more volatile, frequently hitting intensities well in excess of the 100g target, including a maximum intensity of 323g, against 178g for Southern Scotland.

Nuclear plays a key role in moderating grid fluctuations, but the current stations may be replaced by fossil fuel burning when they retire. Scotland’s emissions went up in 2018 by 1.5% because gas generation had to replace the generation of Hunterston B, which went offline. The carbon intensity of the Scottish grid almost doubled.

The Climate Change Committee has warned that because of nuclear fleet retirements, including Hunterston B and Torness, zero-carbon generation across the UK will shrink from 130 TWh to 90 TWh by 2030 without new projects. It has called for nuclear new build to replace the existing fleet by 2035 to maintain nuclear generation at its current levels.

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said:

“Southern Scotland is hitting the 2030 target precisely because wind power and nuclear power are working together, complementing each other, to provide a strong mix of zero-carbon generation. That is our blueprint for net zero, and we need to invest in both new nuclear and new renewable capacity to get there.

“We have seen from the Hunterston B outages that when nuclear goes offline, we burn more gas and emissions go up. Scotland will not decarbonise if we do not invest to replace Hunterston B and Torness when they retire. Nuclear power provides Scotland a critical foundation of reliable, always-on, emissions-free power, and that should endure for future generations as well.”

Southern Scotland versus GB Carbon Intensity

Average Carbon Intensity - GB N Scotland S ScotlandNumber of Days Meeting 2030 Decarbonisation TargetSouthern Scotland Average Carbon Intensity

Southern Scotland Carbon Intensity Graph


Notes to Editors
National Grid ESO Control Room publishes daily updates here: showing the carbon intensity of the grid in different parts of the United Kingdom.

Nuclear power has saved more carbon emissions, over 1 billion tonnes, than any other electricity source in the UK over the lifetime of its operation.

Hunterston B has produced approximately 291 TWh of electricity over its lifetime and saved 102 million tonnes of carbon. Torness has produced approximately 267 TWh of electricity over its lifetime and saved 93 million tonnes of carbon.

Hunterston B is scheduled to retire in 2022. Torness nuclear power station is due to retire in 2030. Both use two Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGRs).

All of the UK’s AGRs are due to retire by 2030. Of the existing fleet, only Sizewell B, with 1.2 GW of capacity, is scheduled to be operational after 2030.

For more information on nuclear: #RediscoverNuclear here
Follow the NIA on Twitter @NIAUK and LinkedIn

About the Nuclear Industry Association
As the trade association for the civil nuclear industry in the UK, the Nuclear Industry Association represents more than 250 companies across the UK’s nuclear supply chain.

For further information, please contact:
Lincoln Hill
Director of Policy and Communications, the Nuclear Industry Association
44 (0)7554 701533