British Sun Beats Natural Gas to Provide Most Electricity in U.K.

Source: By Rachel Morison, Bloomberg • Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Britain got a glimpse of its green future as the sun provided more power to households than any other energy source over a rare, sunny holiday weekend.

Solar generation rose to 8,728 megawatts at 2 p.m. on Sunday, just shy of the record of 8,910 megawatts on May 26 last year. The sun provided 26.9 percent of electricity supply, just beating natural gas, while coal output was zero, according to data from utility Drax Plc.

Britain’s energy mix is changing as renewables crowd out other forms of generation. Once a power industry mainstay, the nation went a record 75 hours without using coal at the end of April. U.K. solar capacity is predicted to grow by about 38 percent over the next five years.

Solar changes wholesale electricity prices in a peculiar way, causing surges at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. as the sun fades and demand is strong and the grid needs supplies from natural gas and coal plants. Prices plummet in the middle of the day when solar panels deliver their highest yields.

The chart below displays a shape that traders in Europe call the “devil horns.” In California, it’s known as the “duck curve.” It shows the so-called residual demand after taking account of solar supplies.

Britain’s solar generation capacity is expected to increased to 16 gigawatts of by 2021 and then to 18 gigawatts by 2023 compared with about 13 gigawatts now. The difference between the solar output capability in 2013 and 2021 is equivalent to the country’s entire nuclear fleet powering up for a few hours every sunny afternoon.