Renewables generate enough electricity to power all UK’s homes over winter
Renewable electricity up 4 terawatt hours on last winter, generating slightly more power than gas.
By George Smeetoninfo@eciu.net
Information on this page correct as of:
New analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) Winter Power Tracker has found that between 1st October 2022 and 28th February 2023, power generated by wind, hydro and solar reached 47TWh (terawatt hours), slightly exceeding the electricity generated by gas over the same period.
This means the primary source of electricity this winter was British-based renewables, generating enough to power all UK homes for the winter or more than 16 million (55%) UK homes for a year.
The UK’s renewable power capacity has grown by 3.4GW in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps.  This is reflected in growth of renewables generation, which was 4TWh higher this winter than in the same period last year, a trend expected to continue as the UK builds out more renewables.
Generating the same amount of power using gas power stations would have required around 95TWh of gas – equivalent to over 10 million UK homes’ gas use for the winter, or 110 tankers of liquified natural gas (LNG).
Put another way, during the winter renewables will displace the equivalent of more than a third of the UK’s entire annual gas demand for power generation (35%). Without these renewables, the UK would have used more gas for power generation, potentially increasing net gas imports by over a fifth (22%), including increasing imports via pipelines by over a quarter (28%).
Jess Ralston, Head of Energy at ECIU, said: “We’re seeing the old electricity system give way to the new, with renewables becoming the backbone and displacing more and more gas. Battery storage is ramping up faster than expected, boosting the UK’s energy security and leaving us less exposed to international gas markets. Lifting the ban on onshore wind will help. But with the US and the EU going gangbusters for renewables, eyes are on the Government, the Chancellor and the Budget to decide on how the UK stays an attractive market for the investments that will ultimately bring down bills.”
More renewable power generation is helping to create export opportunities to supply Europe with electricity when its demand is high and the UK has a power surplus. Indeed the UK became a net electricity exporter in 2022 for the first time since 2010  and electricity exports in Q3 2022 were eight times higher than in the same quarter the previous year .
Other sources of generation, including nuclear and biomass, have generated 28TWh over the winter period – using gas power plants instead would require 56TWh more gas, equivalent to almost 5 million homes’ annual gas demand, or more than 60 LNG tankers.
There are several large new wind farms in the pipeline which would help to meet the UK’s growing demand for electricity. However, there are concerns around grid infrastructure and the process to connect to the grid keeping pace  with the quick rate of buildout.
Grid-scale battery storage capacity is set to grow 14-fold  with the pipeline having increased five times from winter 2021/22 to winter 2022/23 alone. This already exceeds National Grid’s expectations for battery storage capacity for 2035 . Europe’s largest grid scale battery storage facility came online near Hull in 2022  and the UK’s pumped hydro storage capacity is set to rise by 130% to 6.5GW. 
A recent ECIU report with analysis from CBI Economics and the Data City has shown that businesses involved in the net zero economy are already worth £70bn (3.7%) in Gross Value Added (GVA), with 20,000 businesses supporting around 850,000 jobs. 
The UK has a higher gas dependency than any other country in Europe with 40% of our power and 85% of our home heating coming from gas. According to the International Monetary Fund this, combined with the UK having the least efficient housing stock in western Europe, has meant UK households have been worst hit by rising energy costs. 
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. Ofgem’s price cap means that CfDs are giving back £520m this winter, cutting household bills and reducing the costs of the Government’s price freeze. 
Notes to editors:
ECIU Winter Power Tracker. Note: ‘winter’ is defined as 1st October – 1st March: https://eciu.net/winter-power-tracker
2. House of Commons, DESNZ Questions, 2023: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2023-02-28/debates/4433b106-2665-4012-b454-bd3348667ed7/CommonsChamber
3. Electricity exports to Europe soar as wind and solar power increase, the Times, 2022: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/electricity-exports-to-europe-soar-as-wind-and-solar-power-increase-lltkvqkpf
5. The National Grid’s connections queue is speeding up, the Times, 2023: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-national-grids-connections-queue-is-speeding-up-9v6qcnj3n
6. 800MWh of utility-scale energy storage capacity added in the UK during 2022, Energy Storage News, 2023: https://www.energy-storage.news/800mwh-of-utility-scale-energy-storage-capacity-added-in-the-uk-during-2022/
7. National Grid, Future Energy Scenarios, 2022: https://www.nationalgrideso.com/future-energy/future-energy-scenarios#fullsuite
8. Europe's biggest battery storage system switched on, BBC News, 2022: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-63707463
9. Renewable Energy Planning Database, BEIS, 2022: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/renewable-energy-planning-database-monthly-extract
10. Mapping the Net Zero Economy, ECIU, 2023: https://eciu.net/analysis/reports/2023/mapping-the-uk-net-zero-economy
11. UK households worst hit in western Europe, finds IMF, the Guardian, 2022: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2022/sep/01/energy-crisis-uk-households-worst-hit-in-western-europe-finds-imf
12. CfD payments, as per Price Cap model, Annex 2, Wholesale Methodology, Ofgem, 2022. CfD payments this winter are split as 57% for household and 43% for Government, as per the weighted average unit prices under the price caps for Q4 2022 and Q1 2023: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications/default-tariff-cap-level-1-january-2023-31-march-2023
For more information:
George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: firstname.lastname@example.org