Britain is on its way towards surpassing a significant landmark: at midnight on Wednesday Great Britain will have gone two full months without generating power by burning coal
In 2010 around 40% of the country’s electricity came from the burning of coal; the coronavirus pandemic is part of the reason for this new accomplishment but is not the sole reason.
When Britain went into lockdown, the demand for electricity in the nation plummeted; the National Grid responded to this change by taking many power plants off the network.
The four remaining coal-burning power plants in Britain were among the first to be shut down.
The last coal generator came off the system at midnight on the 9th of April. No coal has been burnt for electricity since.
The current coal-free period smashes the previous record of 18 days, 6 hours and 10 minutes which was set in June last year.
These figures apply only to Britain, and not Northern Ireland, as the nation does not get its energy from the National Grid.
This new shift away from coal reveals just how dramatic the transformation of our National Grid system and UK energy, in general, has been over the last ten years.
Due to a massive investment in renewable energy over the last ten years, the country no longer needs to use the fuel that used to be the backbone of the National Grid system. Two examples illustrate the drastic changes made to the UK’s energy networks.
In 2010 just 3% of Great Britain’s electricity came from the renewable energy sources of wind and solar power, which many people believed to be a costly distraction at the time.
The UK now has the largest offshore wind industry in the entire world, as well as the largest single wind farm, completed off the coast of Yorkshire last year.
At the same time, Drax, the country’s biggest power plant, has been taking a different path to renewable energy. The plant, which is also in Yorkshire, generates 5% of the country’s electricity.
A decade ago, it was the biggest consumer of coal in the UK but has been switching to compressed wood pellets.
Will Gardiner, the chief executive of Drax, has said:
“We here at Drax decided that coal was no longer the future,”
“It has been a massive undertaking and then the result of all that is we’ve reduced our CO2 emissions from more than 20 million tonnes a year to almost zero.”
This comes after plans for the UK’s largest solar farm have been given the go-ahead and will cover around 900 acres along the Kent coastline.
Nuclear energy accounted for around 18% and imports for around the remaining 10%; this is according to figures from Carbon Brief, an online environmental journal. Dr Simon Evans of Carbon Brief has said:
“So far this year renewables have generated more electricity than fossil fuels and that’s never happened before”
“With gas also in decline, there’s a real chance that renewables will overtake fossil fuels in 2020 as a whole.”