Britain’s electricity grid has gone a full week without coal for the first
time since the Industrial Revolution, the system operator has confirmed.
The new record – the first coal-free week since use of the fossil fuel for
electricity began in the 19th century – was set at 1.24pm on Tuesday, a
week after the last generator came off the system.
It comes just two years after Britain marked its first full day without
coal, but National Grid Electricity System Operator director Fintan Slye
predicted coal-free generation will become the “new normal”.
He said: “As more and more renewables come on to our energy system,
coal-free runs like this are going to be a regular occurrence. We believe
that by 2025 we will be able to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity
system with zero carbon.
“Zero-carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a
fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate – integrating
newer technologies right across the system – from large-scale offshore wind
to domestic-scale solar panels to increased demand-side partici- pation,
using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real
And he said: “Operating a zero-carbon electricity system in 2025, whenever
there is sufficient renewable generation, is a major stepping stone to full
decarbonisation of the entire electricity system.
“This will enable new technologies and removes barriers to ever increasing
levels of renewables.”
Government figures show that renewables – wind, solar, bioenergy and
hydropower – accounted for a record 27.5 per cent of electricity supplies
Low-carbon generation, which also includes nuclear power, accounted for
half of supplies (49.6%), a new record high for clean electricity.
Coal, which the Government has pledged to bring off the system by 2025,
fell to new lows in 2018, accounting for just 6% of UK power supplies,
while gas made up 43.9% of the supply mix, down from 44.8% in 2017.
Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “Going a week without coal
for the first time since the Industrial Revolution is a huge leap forward
in our world-leading efforts to reduce emissions, but we’re not stopping
Government advisers the Committee on Climate Change have outlined how the
UK could and should reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The Scottish Government has also declared a climate emergency and moved to
axe the likes of cuts to the airport departure tax in its wake.
Industry body RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive, Emma Pinchbeck, said:
“Renewables overall are playing a leading role in our energy mix – and have
been crucial to phasing out dirty coal.”
Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: “Just a few years ago we
were told Britain couldn’t possibly keep the lights on without burning
coal. Now coal is quickly becoming an irrelevance.”