From coal to clean – National Grid ESO are on a journey to zero carbon.

Our report shares how Great Britain’s electricity system has changed since 1990.

We believe Great Britain’s progress towards decarbonisation of its energy system can offer a blueprint to other countries around the world to help them reduce emissions.

Road to Zero Carbon report

Key insights from the report

The report charts the growth in renewable power and the policies that have driven the change. Coal power, once the mainstay of our power grid, has gone from generating almost a quarter of our electricity five years ago, to just 1.6% of the mix in 2020. Since 2004 electricity generated by renewable power has increased tenfold. In the past decade we’ve witnessed an ever-larger change – in 2011 under 5% of GB electricity was renewable; by 2019 that reached a record high of 37.1%.

A number of different policy initiatives have made it possible, ranging from legislation such as the Climate Change Act to market frameworks and initiatives such as the Connect and Manage and Contracts for Difference, which enabled more renewable generation to connect to the grid.

In 2019 we first shared our ambition to be able to operate at periods of 100% zero carbon by 2025. At present our engineers need to draw on conventional power plants (typically gas) to deliver system reliability and manage properties such as voltage and frequency.

The report outlines the new approaches and technologies, such as our Pathfinder projects, which are transforming how we operate, ready to be able to accommodate 100% zero carbon power in 2025.

Learn more about our Pathfinder projects

COP26 will give a further platform to countries around the world to pursue a path to low carbon energy systems. Ahead of the event we wanted to share insights, both from the ESO as the system operator, and National Grid as a principal partner, on how the electricity system in Great Britain has evolved.

The report outlines how we are sharing knowledge and expertise on decarbonisation with system operators, regulators, legislators and policy makers through initiatives such as the Global Power System Transformation Consortium and GO15.

See our global network