UK goes 11 days coal-free (and counting)

The UK has set another energy-related record in 2019, with the National Grid confirming on Tuesday (28 May), that the UK has gone 11 days without relying on coal for power generation.


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UK goes 11 days coal-free (and counting)

The UK has broken its coal-free generation record several times in recent times

The National Grid revealed that the UK – not including Northern Ireland – has gone more than 260 hours without coal-fired generation, with May set to be a “record-setting” month for low-carbon generation. So far, the month has seen 600 hours – around 25 days – of coal-free power generation.

Coal-free timeline

Great Britain experienced its first coal-free day following industrialisation in April 2017 but, as the Government continues with its plans to shut down all UK coal power plants by 2025, the National Grid has predicted that coal-free periods of generation will become the “new normal”, with recent milestones suggesting this to be the case.

Earlier this month, the UK completed its first week without any domestic coal generation on the power grid since before the Industrial Revolution, marking a significant milestone in its low-carbon energy transition. Coal now accounts for less than 10% of national power output.

The UK has broken its coal-free generation record several times in recent times. Last month, the electricity grid operated for almost 92 hours with no domestically generated coal-fired power, far exceeding the previous record of 76 hours, which was set between 21 and 24 April 2018.

In fact, 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 National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) – a separate entity from the National Grid Group – claims that the emergence and integration of new technologies mean that a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2025 would be feasible.

The dramatic decline in coal generation has been supported by growth in the renewables sector. The latest Government statistics (released last week) revealed that the renewables share of generation reached 33% in 2018, an increase of 3.9% compared to 2017. Overall, low-carbon sources (renewables and nuclear) accounted for 52.8% of total generation in 2018. 

Renewables share of generation for the last quarter of 2018 suggests that renewables could be set for even greater growth in early 2019. Renewables share of generation accounted for 37.1% in Q4 2018, a 7% increase on the same period the year prior.

Matt Mace

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Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    But not gas free. As well as coal free, there have been occasions when the power supply has also been very nearly wind energy free as well.

    When you can command the wind will be the day to raise your banner.

    Richard Phillips

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