The way electricity is generated is changing as we head towards a greener future.  

But it’s important to have different fuel sources and technologies to generate electricity to ensure a constant supply and are not overly reliant on one type of power generation. 

However, a reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels just a few decades ago, is being replaced as we move from coal to clean

Renewables are key to all this. And it’s great news that in 2020, the number of hours of coal-free electricity totalled 5,147. 

To understand how electricity is generated, we take a look at all sources – from nuclear to hydrogen, from solar to imports. We also lift the lid on electricity storage, and it’s critical role in this energy transition. 

Learn more about the fascinating topic of electricity generation in this section of Electricity Explained. 

National Grid ESO - maintenance engineers at wind turbines

Wind

Wind is a crucial part of the power mix required to be able to run Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon by 2025. But how does wind generate electricity, and how clean and reliable is it?

National Grid ESO - solar panels in field

Solar

Solar power works by converting energy from the sun into power. There are two forms of energy generated from the sun for our use – electricity and heat.

National Grid ESO - nuclear power plant

Nuclear

Nuclear generation is and is expected to continue to be an important part of the GB generation mix as we progress toward net zero.

National Grid ESO - waterfall

Hydrogen

Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of resources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, biogas and renewable power like solar and wind.

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Gas

Gas is a fossil fuel which can be used to generate electricity. By burning gas, we create heat which powers a turbine. The rotation of this turbine spins a generator which creates electricity.

National Grid ESO - battery storage

What is embedded generation?

Embedded generation refers to electricity generation or storage plants connected to a distribution network.

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What is transmission connected generation?

Generators connect onto the network in two ways – either as transmission connected generation or embedded generation.