The amount of electricity generated by renewables plunged by nearly a tenth last year with the balance largely filled by natural gas, net imports of which rose by 30%, according to new government statistics.

The quarterly Energy Trends update from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) shows that final consumption of electricity was 285 TWh in 2021, an increase of 1.8% on 2020 with the lifting of Covid restrictions partly offset by warmer temperatures.

Generation from renewable sources decreased by 9.5% from a record level in 2020, while from fossil fuels it increased to 132 TWh, the data shows

The decrease in renewable generation to 121.9 TWh, albeit still the second highest figure on record, was mostly the result of less wind, sunshine and rainfall during the year.

Overall, renewables accounted for 39.3% of total generation, down from 43.1% in 2020.

Growth in renewable generating capacity was a ‘modest’ 3.4% with 1.6 GW installed in 2021.

However, renewable generation saw a rebound in the final quarter of 2021, increasing by 4% to 35.8 TWh with half of the rise accounted for by offshore wind.

Low carbon’s contribution to the generation mix was also undermined by outages in the UK’s nuclear fleet, which generated a total of 46 TWh, the lowest figure recorded in the government’s energy statistics.

The bulk of the gap created by reduced nuclear and renewable generation was filled by gas, total demand for which rose by 5.4% compared with 2020, reaching 854 TWh last year.

To meet this increased demand, 2021 saw a 30% rise in net imports of gas.

The low-carbon electricity gap was also plugged by a “temporary” 14% rise in coal-fired generation from the record low figure in 2020 that followed Covid-19 restrictions and high renewable electricity generation that year.

Net imports of electricity via the UK’s interconnectors were 25 TWh, an increase of 37% and the highest figure recorded in the quarterly government statistics.