Winter Power Tracker: UK renewables save 2.9 million homes worth of gas
New tracker tallies quantities of power generated this winter by gas, renewables and other sources.
By George Smeetoninfo@eciu.net
Information on this page correct as of:
New analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has found that, in the first 40 days of the winter period starting in October, power generated by wind, hydro and solar has totalled 13TWh (terawatt hours). Generating this power using gas power stations instead would have required 27TWh more gas – the equivalent needed to heat 2.9 million homes this winter. 
With concerns over gas supplies this winter, the more renewable power that’s generated the less gas needs to be sourced and paid for, and the more the UK can keep its gas storage topped up.
ECIU is launching its Winter Power Tracker to tally the quantities of power generated this winter by gas, renewables and other sources. Since the start of October – defined as winter in the energy sector – when weather typically starts to get cooler, renewable power has already effectively displaced the equivalent of 3% of UK annual gas demand and 6% of UK net gas imports – 8% of what we import via pipelines or 30 LNG shipments – and these numbers will continue to grow during the winter. 
Other sources of generation, including nuclear and biomass generated around 6TWh in this period – generating this power using gas power plants would have required more gas equivalent to 1.5 % of annual UK gas demand.
The UK has gas power plants on stand-by for when other power stations develop faults or operate at lower capacities.  This back-up role is being taken over by other technologies, with battery storage capacity up five-fold from last winter to 2.5GW this winter, and a further eight-fold rise (20GW) in the pipeline. The UK’s pumped hydro storage capacity is set to rise by 130% to 6.5GW. 
Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, Head of Analysis at ECIU, said: “Last year the power grid stood solid throughout the winter, but this time round there are concerns over whether gas will be able to play its role. We have enough gas power stations – the question is will we have a steady supply of gas to both feed power plants and heat our homes?
“Every swoop of a wind turbine blade means less gas that we have to buy. As batteries and pumped hydro expand, we’ll be less dependent on gas to play its ‘balancing’ role, insulating us from international gas markets. The same goes for insulation and electric heat pumps. If government ramps up investments, next winter could be less challenging for the grid and less worrying for households.”
The UK has a higher gas dependency than any country in Europe, using gas for 40% of our power generation and 85% of our home heating – coupled with the least efficient housing stock in western Europe. A report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this summer showed that the cost impacts of the gas crisis are worse for households in the UK than in any other country in Western Europe. 
Were it not for wind, hydro and solar meeting around 30% of our annual electricity demand, gas power plants would be operating more often, burning up to 70% more gas each year – adding almost a quarter (23%) to the UK’s total gas demand and putting up imports by almost half (45%).
Renewables are also limiting electricity wholesale costs, partly by displacing expensive gas power plants that would otherwise set higher prices, and partly through Contracts for Difference CfDs that paid back over £700million in the year from Q4 2021 to Q3 2022 and are forecast to pay back at least a further £2billion by the end of Q1 2023. 
Last week saw UK wind power set a new record, with turbines generating 20.9GW of power to meet 53% of UK demand. 
Notes to editors:
- ECIU’s Winter Power Tracker can be found here: www.eciu.net/winter-power-tracker (Note that ‘winter’ is defined in the energy sector as the six months of October to March.)
- Gas consumption data from DUKES Chapter 4 (BEIS, 2022): https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/digest-of-uk-energy-statistics-dukes
- The ‘technical capacity’ of all nuclear, thermal and hydro power plants, along with established demand-side response contracts, would be able to meet peak demand, even in the absence of imports via interconnection. National Grid bases its Winter Outlook scenarios on lower ‘derated capacities’ that reflect the possibility of faults at power plants. Winter Outlook 2022/23 (National Grid ESO, October 2022): https://www.nationalgrideso.com/research-publications/winter-outlook
- Storage projects are listed in the Renewable Energy Planning Database (BEIS, updated in October 2022): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/renewable-energy-planning-database-monthly-extract
- Surging Energy Prices in Europe in the Aftermath of the War: How to Support the Vulnerable and Speed up the Transition Away from Fossil Fuels (IMF, July 2022): https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2022/07/28/Surging-Energy-Prices-in-Europe-in-the-Aftermath-of-the-War-How-to-Support-the-Vulnerable-521457
- CfD payments and forecasts are from the Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC) CfD dashboards, as of 9 November 2022: https://www.lowcarboncontracts.uk/index.php/dashboards/cfd
- National Grid confirmed that wind generated 20,896MW at 12:30–13:00 on Wednesday 2nd November, meeting 53% of demand at that time: https://twitter.com/NationalGridESO/status/1588185454590889984
For more information:
George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: email@example.com [currently in Egypt for COP27 – please use WhatsApp for urgent calls]