Engineering & Technology


Electricity in the United Kingdom is generated by a diverse range of methods. We are currently in the process of moving away from a fossil-fuel based energy generation network favouring carbon neutral and low-carbon alternatives.

Gas - not renewable

Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT) generate electricity by burning gas within a turbine coupled to an alternator. The waste heat from the turbine is used to generate steam which powers a steam turbine to improve efficiency. 

Gas powered stations generate the largest amount of electricity in the UK at present acounting for 41%. The image below is of  Keadby power station near Scunthorpe. This plant is being developed into a hydrogen plant.

Coal - not renewable

Superheated steam is generated by heating a boiler by burning powdered coal. The steam passes through a turbine which in turn drives an alternator.

Once being the primary source of electricity in the UK, only 3% of electricity was generated by burning coal in 2021.

Drax power station in East Yorkshire was designed to burn coal but now burns mostly biomass.

Oil - not renewable

Oil powered stations operate in much the same way as coal plants but heat the water b burning oil instead.

Very little electricity is generated by burning oil, 0.8% in 2021.

Wind - renewable

The force of the wind causes the blades of the turbine to rotate. This rotation is coupled to an alternator via a gearbox.

Wind power is a renewable source of energy and does not release CO2 into the environment.

Wind turbines can be errected in land and at sea. The largest off-shore wind farm in the world is found off the Yorkshire coast near Hornsea.

Wave - renewable

There are different ways that electricity can be generated from the waves. Once method involves floating buoys that rise and fall with the waves, causing alternators to rotate and generate electricity. Other methods involve placing turbine blades under the water which rotate as the tide flows through them.

Hydroelectric - renewable

Water is held back within a dam and released through turbines which turn alternators.

Dinorwig power station in Wales operates as a storage facility. Water is pumped to a reservoir at the top of the mountain at night and then released to generate electricity at peak demand times.

Photovoltaic - renewable

Photovoltaic solar panels generate direct current electricity directly from the light of the sun. They have no moving parts.

Solar farms consist of vast arrays of photovoltaic panels. They can also be installed on the roofs of buildings. A fish packaging company in Grimsby has a large solar array on its roof.


Nuclear fission generates heat to produce steam to drive turbines and alternators. 

In 2021 nearly 19% of the UK's electricity was generated by nuclear power stations.

On 26th April 1986 reactor no.4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded.