Cornwall Insight investigated the impact on the daily average electricity demand and carbon emissions in a number of European countries in a four-week period from 23 March.
Overall, all of the markets it looked at have seen demand for power and carbon emissions fall in comparison to 2019 data. On the continent of Europe, very little coal-fired plant is running and less gas-fired plant than usual.
Cornwall Insight senior analyst Tom Andrews said, “Arguably, renewables have stepped into the baseload role, with gas and limited amounts of coal fulfilling a peaking role both when demand does pick up, and when renewables output dips.
“Many system operators are now proving able to manage grids at 70% or more renewable energy and with a much lower level of demand than would – even a few months ago – have been expected.
“The generation balance is likely to return to normal as countries come off lockdown. However, this has demonstrated that managing a grid with high renewable penetration is feasible. This may become the new normal as more renewable generation is deployed across Europe.”
The study showed that Great Britain – where wind power and offshore wind in particular plays a growing role in electricity generation – experienced an average reduction in demand of 17.2% and 17.5% in carbon intensity during the period, compared to the same time last year.
“There is a general downward trend in demand as the implications of the UK lockdown took effect across the country,” said Cornwall Insight. “However, the UK carbon intensity shows more significant variability during the 2020 period with lower weekend emissions linking to variations in demand.
“The main reduction in generation has come from the lower CCGT output, with output slumping almost 90% in the face of both lower demand and record renewable output.”