UK sees first full day without coal-fired electricity

Coal powered the UK from the Industrial Revolution to the present day but that is changing  and changing fast. Picture: PA
Coal powered the UK from the Industrial Revolution to the present day but that is changing  and changing fast. Picture: PA
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Britain was on course yesterday to see its first full day without generating any electricity from coal since the Industrial Revolution, the National Grid has said.

If the grid runs the whole day without coal power, it would be the first continuous 24-hour coal-free period for Britain since use of the fossil fuel began.

National Grid’s electricity control room tweeted: “It looks likely that today will be the first ever working day in Britain without coal since the industrial revolution!”

The electricity grid has been coal-free a number of times since last spring, as gas and renewables such as wind and solar play an increasing role in providing the country with power.

The longest continuous period until now was 19 hours – first achieved on a weekend last May, and matched on Thursday.

Coal has seen significant declines in recent years, accounting for just 9 per cent of electricity generation in 2016, down from around 23 per cent the year before, as coal plants closed or switched to burning biomass such as wood pellets.

The government has pledged to phase out coal – the most polluting fossil fuel – from the system by 2025 as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions in the UK.

Hannah Martin, from Greenpeace UK, said: “The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition.

“A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in ten years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.

“It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritise making the UK a world leader in clean, green technology.

“They will need to get on with the coal phase-out plan and recognise the economic potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“We can meet the UK’s needs for skilled jobs and fair bills, whilst also meeting our climate targets.”

It is thought it will be the first time the country will have been without electricity from coal since the world’s first centralised public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London, in 1882. Industry body RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: “The change in how we produce energy is the industrial revolution of this generation: as the age of coal passes, the renewables boom is well under way.

“Coal has been part of the UK’s past, but we should celebrate the move away from dirty and old fashioned technology to a modern, clean energy future.”