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UK power demand falls 4.7% in 2020 but Q4 recovery extends into 2021

Highlights

Industry lockdown drives demand down to 281 TWh

Domestic demand tops all four quarters

Renewables take 43% share in generation mix

London — UK electricity demand fell 4.7% in 2020 to 281 TWh, driven by a steep decline in industrial demand due to COVID-19 restrictions, while a rise in domestic use was accompanied by a change in seasonal trends, government statistics showed March 25.

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The final quarter of the year saw power consumption levels recover closer to Q4 2019 levels despite a second national lockdown, with overall demand down 2.2% on the year. The latest data showed January 2021 demand of 28.03 TWh, up from 27.96 TWh in 2020 but down from 2019's 29.33 TWh.

"In 2019 and in earlier years, domestic consumption was higher than non-domestic in Quarter 1 and Quarter 4 of the year and lower in Quarters 2 and 3. For 2020, all four quarters of the year had domestic consumption similar to or higher than levels of industrial and other non-domestic consumption," Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said.

Total electricity generated in 2020 of 312.8 TWh was down 3.7% on the year, while net imports fell 15% from a year earlier to 17.9 TWh.

Renewable sources generated 134.3 TWh in 2020, an increase of 11%. In contrast, generation from fossil fuels was down 14% to 120.5 TWh.

This was reflected in the generation mix, with renewables' share rising to 42.9% and fossil fuels falling to 38.5%.

"While fossil fuel generation has been decreasing year on year since 2010, the lower demand in 2020 reduced the use of coal and gas generators even further," BEIS said, noting coal generation had fallen from a fifth of generation in 2015 to just 1.7% in 2020.

Gas generation also fell in 2020, down 13% on the year to 114.1 TWh, but gas "continues to be the dominant fuel in the UK generation mix, generating 36.5% of the total in 2020, although this was down 4.1 percentage points compared to 2019," BEIS said.

Finally nuclear had a year to forgot, output down 11% YoY to 50.3 TWh as statutory and unplanned outages took their toll.

UK GENERATION MIX (TWh)

2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
Coal
29.1
21.37
15.97
6.54
5.17
Oil
1.71
1.48
0.95
1
0.77
Gas
140.83
134.24
129.08
129.49
111.91
Nuclear
65.15
63.89
59.1
51.03
45.67
Hydro (natural flow)
5.32
5.82
5.14
5.46
6.07
Wind
37.16
49.64
56.91
64.33
75.61
Solar
10.4
11.46
12.74
12.92
12.8
Bioenergy
26.18
27.18
29.67
31.54
33.29
Other fuels
5.18
4.78
5.31
5.85
5.79
Pumped storage (net supply)
-1.07
-1
-0.9
-0.61
-0.45
Net imports
17.75
14.76
19.11
21.17
17.91
Total all generating companies
337.7
333.63
333.08
328.9
314.54

Source: BEIS