ESO data shows record breaking year for Britain’s electricity

  • 2019 saw highest levels of wind and solar generation ever recorded
  • May saw the longest ever period of no coal being burned to generate electricity – 437 hours
  • GB electricity was the ‘greenest’ it has ever been on August 17th, with the lowest ever carbon intensity and highest ever level of low carbon power
  • The data, including greenest region of GB and greenest time of day, revealed on National Grid Electricity System Operator’s (ESO) website and app

Records tumbled throughout 2019 with higher levels of renewable power meaning Great Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels hit an all-time low, according to National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) data. 

May saw a record 9,550MW of power produced by solar panels and June saw over 18 days of coal free operations for the ESO – the longest period of no coal being burnt for electricity since the Industrial Revolution. On August 17 the carbon intensity, or CO2 emissions of electricity, dropped to a record low of 57 gCO2/kWh, with low carbon sources generating 87% of the nation’s power– making it the greenest day for the electricity system since the Industrial Revolution. To finish the year, at the beginning of December, the tail end of Storm Atiyah saw wind power generate a record 16873MW, roughly 45% of the country’s electricity.

National Grid ESO, a legally separate business within the National Grid Group, balances supply and demand for electricity in Great Britain second by second. Our engineers work 24 hours a day 365 days a year in its Electricity National Control Centre to balance the system and ensure that, whatever the mix, electricity is always there when its needed.


Carbon intensity graph


The National Grid ESO Carbon Intensity website and app, also shows the carbon intensity and generation mix of electricity consumed regionally across Great Britain, as well as showing users when electricity is at its cleanest, helping them to plan their energy use.

National Grid ESO director Fintan Slye said:

2019 has been a record breaking year for Britain’s electricity. Our system is changing quickly, with wind and solar generation consistently making up a significant proportion of power being generated - it’s an exciting time and a pivotal part of getting to net-zero by 2050. 

As the Electricity System Operator our number one priority is running an efficient system in the best interests of consumers, but we are proud to have played our part delivering these records too. Our control room engineers work 24/7, 365 days a year to balance supply and demand for electricity so it’s great to be able to showcase their work on our app and website. 

As we move towards our ambition of operating carbon free by 2025 we expect more milestones in the years to come.

2019 records in full:

  • December 10 2019 – highest ever level of wind powered electricity generation, 16873 MW 
  • May 14 2019 – highest ever level of solar powered electricity generation, 9550MW.
  • Longest ever period of operation of GB’s electricity system without using coal power to produce electricity (437.5 hours) ending on June 4 2019
  • August 17 2019 – lowest ever carbon intensity 57 gCO2/kWh (carbon intensity of electricity is a measure of Co2 emissions produced per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed)