Coal drops to record low generation share in UK

Coal power generated a record low of 0.6% of the UK's grid mix between April and June, the latest official Government statistics have revealed.

Pictured: The Cottam coal power station, which is set to cease generation next Monday (30 September). Image: EDF

Pictured: The Cottam coal power station, which is set to cease generation next Monday (30 September). Image: EDF

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) latest Energy Trends data, published late on Thursday (26 September), reveals that Q2 marked the first quarter during which coal has generated less than 1% of the UK grid mix since the 19th century.

During the same period, the grid share accounted for by renewable energy rose by 3.5% quarter-on-quarter to reach 35.5%. The annual rise was starker still, with renewables accounting for 9.9% more of the grid mix in Q2 2019 than in Q2 2018.

When nuclear is added to the mix, it, along with renewables, collectively accounted for 52.6% of generation during Q2.

The data also tracks changes in the UK’s renewable generation capacity, and revealed that, year-on-year, capacity was up 7.9% to 45.9GW. The majority of this growth was accounted for by offshore wind, with output up by one-quarter year-on-year.

Change the record

During the three-month period covered in the latest data, the UK celebrated several key coal-free milestones.

Almost 92 consecutive hours of coal-free generation were recorded over the long Easter weekend in April. The previous record was set in 2018 when the power grid went for more than three days (roughly 76 hours) without coal between 21 and 24 April.

Then, on 8 May, National Grid announced that the UK had completed its first week of coal-free generation since before the industrial revolution. That record was broken again in later May with almost two weeks without coal generation recorded. In total, there were 600 hours of coal-free generation in Britain during May.

While there are seasonal factors at play, accounting for the long performed temporary shutdowns of coal plants during lower demand periods in spring, it is worth noting that the first three months of 2019 saw the UK electricity grid clock up 650 hours of coal-free generation - more than was achieved during the entirety of 2017.

The progress comes as the UK Government is working to phase out coal generation by 2025.

Indeed, the year so far has seen three major power firms – EDF, SSE and RWE – confirm plans to close a UK-based, coal-fired power plant each.

Moreover, the National Grid ESO is planning to operate with zero-carbon electricity by 2025, after its own research found that the systems, products and services needed to support the transition to a decarbonised grid should be put in place over the next six years.

But, according to green energy experts, more needs to be done by the Government to support renewables and nuclear as coal comes offline. 

"With coal coming off the system in its entirety by 2025, and the expected retirement of much of our existing nuclear generation capacity by the early 2030s, these statistics highlight how we urgently need supportive policy that encourages the construction of a wide range of new renewable power sites, including onshore wind and solar PV," the Renewable Energy Association's head of policy Frank Gordon said. "We urge the government to open up auctions for 'Pot 1' generation technologies in the Contracts for Difference auctions to facilitate this."

Sarah George


beis | coal | renewables | power & utilities | low-carbon


Energy efficiency & low-carbon | Renewables

Click a keyword to see more stories on that topic, view related news, or find more related items.


You need to be logged in to make a comment. Don't have an account? Set one up right now in seconds!

© Faversham House Ltd 2019. edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.