Britain's clean energy system achieves historic milestone in 2019

Britain is set to achieve a historic electricity generation milestone this year, with more electricity generated from zero carbon sources than fossil fuels.

Innovative approaches such as connecting Britain’s electricity grid to its neighbours via under water cables called interconnectors, including the new North Sea Link plugging Britain into Norway’s hydro network, will cut carbon emissions and accelerate Britain’s response to climate change – visit website.

New research from National Grid reveals key drivers of increased “climate anxiety” among the British public.

In 2019, for the first time, more of our electricity will come from zero carbon sources

This year, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, more of Britain’s electricity production will come from zero carbon energy sources, than fossil fuels. According to National Grid, annual power generation data from the last decade shows Britain’s reliance on cleaner energy sources (wind, solar, nuclear and hydro power) will overtake fossil fuels (coal and gas fired power generation) this year[i]. This marks a historic achievement in Britain’s journey towards the UK Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050, demonstrating leadership in addressing a global challenge.

A decade long revolution in our power sources – first coal-free fortnight in May 2019

Reaching this landmark tipping point in Britain’s clean electricity generation has been achieved following a decade-long revolution in our power sources:

Electricity generation sources

Fossil fuels

(coal and gas)

Zero carbon

(wind, solar, nuclear and hydro)



2009 total





Jan – May 2019



2.5% (-93%)


N.B. percentages in the table above only relate to the energy sources cited (fossil fuels: coal, gas; zero carbon: wind, solar, nuclear, hydro and storage). Contributions from biomass, are not represented as it is neither zero carbon nor fossil fuel. Contributions from imports are included in 2019 data.  

In May, Britain clocked up its first coal free fortnight and generated record levels of solar power for two consecutive days, powering more than a quarter of the country’s daily electricity consumption.

The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past ten years means we can now say 2019 will be the year zero carbon power beats fossil fuel fired generation for the first time. Having reached this landmark tipping point, the question is what are we doing today to get to net zero as quickly as possible?

We take our responsibility to run the UK’s electricity and gas energy systems, in accordance with our licence obligations, extremely seriously. We seek to maintain the integrity of these systems while keeping energy costs down for UK homes and businesses. But as we look to the future we are proud to champion world-leading feats of British engineering as we move to a net zero power grid.

The interconnectors that connect our electricity grid into Norway’s hydro power are part of this story, as is having the know-how to bring renewable generation onstream to complement conventional sources of generating power. This will help accelerate our progress towards delivering cleaner, greener energy for Britain’s homes, our travel and our work as quickly as possible.

John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid

National Grid is investing billions in infrastructure and interconnectors

Britain’s energy system is in the midst of a rapid and complex transformation, and National Grid is playing a key role in that historic change. The continued move to a clean power system will require significant upgrades to the transmission network, and National Grid is investing around £1.3bn each year to support this transition. Huge strides are also being made in areas such as carbon capture and storage and investing over £2bn in new interconnector projects. 2019 marks a turning point. Several significant achievements have helped zero carbon beat fossil fuels so far this year, including the fact that 64.5 per cent of electricity imported to Britain through under water cables, called interconnectors, has come from zero carbon sources.

Research shows public anxiety about climate change at all time high

But as Britain powers towards a new era of clean energy, public concern about climate change is at an all-time high[ii]. New research commissioned by National Grid[iii] found that “climate anxiety” is exacerbated by a perceived lack of urgency around addressing the problem and the impact this will have on future generations. Nearly seven out of ten (69 per cent) of Brits who are concerned about climate change said it was because they believe it’s not being addressed urgently enough. Unaddressed, over a third (38 per cent) of young people said their concerns about climate change would drive them to join a protest, and nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of 18-24 year olds said they are prepared to skip school or work to do this.

National Grid publishing data about our clean energy mix and interconnectors

The research also identified a demand for clearer information on what action is being taken to reduce emissions. Nearly three in five (56 per cent) Brits worried about climate change stated that more information from government and businesses about what action is being taken would help address their concerns, and almost half (49 per cent) would like regular reporting on Britain’s progress in tackling climate change. In response, National Grid is publishing data that sets out Britain’s transition to a cleaner energy mix in ways that reach a wider audience through a new website:

Interconnectors accelerating journey to net zero carbon

By 2030, National Grid will have at least six interconnectors operating in Britain, through which 90 per cent of electricity imported will be from zero carbon sources[iv]. Even sooner, by 2025, National Grid’s interconnectors will provide enough energy to power eight million homes via zero carbon sources. This network of European sub-sea, clean energy super-highways will help to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions from the power sector by approximately 17 per cent (6.0 million tonnes) by 2030 – accelerating our journey to net zero carbon. You can also find out more about interconnectors by visiting

Electricity from our latest interconnector with Norway is 100% zero carbon

National Grid’s fifth under water electricity cable, the North Sea Link, will plug British homes into Norway’s biggest hydro-dam – known as Europe’s green battery – and one hundred per cent of the electricity travelling through it will be from zero carbon sources. The world’s longest interconnector at 720km is being painstakingly laid between Blyth in Northumberland and the Blasjo reservoir in Kvilldal, where the biggest hydro power plant in Northern Europe sits amongst Norway’s fjords. When the team of hundreds of engineers from National Grid and Statnett, the operator of Norway’s power grid, complete construction in 2021, the interconnector will enable both countries to share zero carbon electricity more efficiently, accelerating Britain and Norway’s progress towards a net zero emissions target.

Find out more about our clean energy journey and interconnectors by visiting our interactive website  

Find out more about National Grid Ventures; the National Grid company responsible for developing interconnectors by visiting this page.


[i] Electricity generation data from January 2009 to May 2019, comparing fossil fuels (gas + coal) vs zero carbon sources (wind, solar, nuclear + hydro). Imports via interconnectors classified using generation mix in connected country.

[ii] BEIS public attitudes tracker, March 2019: 80% of the public are concerned or very concerned about climate change.

[iii] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,038 adults of which 1,521 are concerned about climate change. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th and 11th June 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[iv] National Grid analysis of UK and European electricity markets.