The United Kingdom's eight nuclear power stations produced more than one fifth (21%) of the UK’s low-carbon electricity in 2016, with intermittent renewables (wind , solar, established hydro and biomass) making up the remainder.
In total, more than 45% of the UK's power came from low-carbon sources in 2016, according to The Digest of UK Energy Statistics.
Nuclear power proved to be the most reliable low-carbon source, operating for 77% of the time. In comparison, the overall wind load factor was 29%, down from the record 33% in 2015.
Overall, the UK remained a net importer of electricity, mostly through interconnection with France which produces most of its power from nuclear power stations.
Commenting on the statistics, Nuclear Industry Association chief executive, Tom Greatrex, said:
“More than ever the UK needs to ensure it continues to have a secure, reliable and available supply of low carbon power to meet our changing requirements. While low carbon electricity generation reaching 45% in 2016 demonstrates progress, there is much more to do to meet our climate commitments and maximise the economic opportunities for clean growth in the UK."
Recent scenarios from the UK National Grid show that the move to electric vehicles and heating could increase electricity demand from 60GW today to 85GW by 2050. Government plans, announced this week to stop sales of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 and other development, will put added pressure on the UK’s electricity supplies and could add 8GW of demand at peak times.
“With the distinction between electricity and energy diminishing as more low carbon power is projected to be used for transport and heat as well as power, we need a balanced, low carbon mix to enable us to meet rising demand. Nuclear power will be an integral part of meeting that challenge,” Greatrex said.
Photo: Sizewell B, the UK's only pressurised water reactor (Credit: EDF Energy)