This is why you’ve used way less renewable electricity this year

The Eco Experts

24% of National Grid electricity has been renewable this year

Last year, 43% was renewable

Fossil fuels have supplied 36% of our electricity


Renewable sources have generated 45% less of the UK’s electricity this year than they did in 2020, The Eco Experts can reveal.

Using National Grid data, we found that from January to November 2021, only 23.8% of electricity has been supplied by green sources like wind, solar energy, and hydropower – compared to 43.1% last year.

After falling behind renewables last year, fossil fuels – that is, coal, gas, and oil – have taken back top spot by generating 36.4% of the nation’s electricity.

After the triumph of 2020, disappointment

In 2020, renewable energy dominated the country’s electricity mix, generating 43.1% of our power to fossil fuels’ 37.8%.

This was the first time renewable sources had produced more of the UK’s electricity than fossil fuels.

But it was also the culmination of a long-term trend that saw green energy’s percentage of the electricity mix rise as fossil fuels declined.

National Grid’s Isabelle Haigh has admitted 2021 may be disappointing, but said “the context is crucial: 2020 was an exceptional year of unusual circumstances, with low demands in lockdown and high zero carbon generation making like-for-like comparisons difficult.”

However, as you can see from our chart, 2020 was simply the continuation of a trend that was already well-developed.

From January to November 2021, this trend fell by the wayside as green energy generation dropped sharply, while fossil fuel levels remained relatively stable.

With just one month left in the year, it looks like 2021 will be a painful reality check for fans of green energy.

Whose fault is it?

This defeat in the fight to make the UK’s electricity 100% renewable shouldn’t be laid at the feet of the National Grid.

After all, the organisation just tries to keep the lights on with the tools it’s given.

No, the fault here lies with the government.

If the wind doesn’t blow (as has been the case on many occasions this year), there must be other renewable energy sources that can step up.

We must take full advantage of the wind, the sun, and the bodies of water that surround us. All our best climate-friendly innovations, from electric cars to heat pumps, rely on us turning our electricity green.

Currently, the UK lacks the infrastructure to do this – and that can only be down to a government that talks big, but has been reticent to back it up with the required funds.

josh jackman
Josh Jackman Senior Writer

Josh has written about eco-friendly home improvements and climate change for the past three years. His work has featured on the front page of the Financial Times; he’s been interviewed by BBC Radio; and he was the resident expert in BT’s smart home tech initiative.

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