Power Generation is the process of generating electricity to meet the demand for power in the U.K. Electricity is generated in different ways using nuclear and fossil fuel power stations, renewable energy and importation of electricity to fill capacity from interconnected European grids.
It is important to have different fuel sources and technologies to generate electricity so that we have a constant supply and not overly reliant on one type of power generation. The Power generation mix has typically been dictated by the cost of building and decommissioning power stations but over the last 10 years the power generation landscape is has been shaped by environmental factors.
Fossil fuel power station burn natural resources like coal and gas to produce heat which are used to turn water into steam which turns a turbine to enable a generator to produce electricity. The bulk of electricity in the U.K is generated by burning fossil fuels utilising where possible the natural resources of the U.K supplemented by imports to fill the availability of fossil fuels. It is estimated 40% of all electricity generated is produced from gas and 8% from coal but these numbers reduce each year as power stations are decommissioned.
Nuclear power stations use nuclear reactors to split uranium atoms to produce heat in a process called fission. This process is used to turn water into steam to turn the turbine and enable the generator to produce electricity. It is estimated that around 20% of all electricity generated in the U.K is produced in nuclear power stations. This is contribution to the power generation mix is expected be maintained despite the decommissioning of many existing nuclear power stations through the construction of the next generation of nuclear reactors at new site like Hinkley Point.
Renewable energy is created by harnessing natural energy associated with wind, solar, hydro and geothermal power to create electricity. There has been significant investment in renewable energy in the U.K to reduce carbon emissions over the last 10 years and it is now estimated that 20% of all electricity generated is from renewable energy.
The UK electricity network is connected to systems in France, the Netherlands and Ireland through cables called interconnectors. The UK uses these to import or export electricity when it is most economical an required based on the need to fill the power gap to meet demand.