UK set for record two months of coal-free electricity

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As of midnight tonight, the UK will not have used coal-powered electricity for two months, the longest period of power generation without coal since the Industrial Revolution.

On 8 April, the last of the UK’s four remaining coal power plants was switched off, with all electricity subsequently provided by a combination of gas and low-carbon alternatives such as solar.

A fall in electricity demand precipitated by the coronavirus crisis, with a slowdown in manufacturing and rise in home-working accounting for a 15-20 percent fall in power demand.

However, the coal-free period has smashed the previous record of 18 days, six hours and 10 minutes, which was set last June.

Gareth Baker, energy partner at law firm Gowling, said that it was especially pleasing to see how well the energy network had handled the shift to renewable energy.

He said: “Whilst this is part of a long-term trend, the system has coped with the substantial increase in renewable generation remarkably well.

“The next challenge is how the network balances and manages intermittency and energy storage has to become a substantial part of the solution”.

A decade ago, 40 per cent of the UK’s electricity came from coal power sources, but the rapid decline in the cost of renewable energy sources has seen the country pivot away from the fossil fuel in recent years.

Coal will be totally phased out of the UK’s energy mix by October 2024, the government announced in February, a year ahead of the previous target.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “Yet another record-breaking coal-free run in Britain highlights the fact that the fuel is simply not needed in a modern energy system.

“At the same time, the surge in renewable generation and extensive plans to expand the nation’s fleet of cheap and clean energy sources show that there will only be one direction from here. Greenpeace’s chief scientist Doug Parr said that “the rapid decline in such a polluting fuel is truly cause to celebrate”.

He added: “This achievement would once have been unimaginable but the UK rightly took the chance to be a world leader in phasing out coal.

“That’s a lesson we must take with us as we seek to build a new economy when moving forward from the pandemic”.