The UK has just seen its very first working day since the Industrial Revolution start and finish without coal power, with the National Grid control room tweeting that it had “supplied GB’s electricity demand without the need for #coalgeneration”.
According to the Guardian, Friday (April 21st) saw the first continuous coal-free period for the country since we started using fossil fuels, with the West Burton 1 power station going offline on Thursday.
Head of energy at Greenpeace UK Hannah Martin welcomed the news, saying it “marks a watershed in the energy transition”. She went on to add that even just ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable to think about seeing a day powered without the use of coal – so in ten years’ time, just think how the energy system in the UK will have been transformed.
And head of climate and energy at WWF Gareth Redmond-King was quoted by the news source as saying: “Getting rid of coal from our energy mix is exciting and hugely important. But it’s not enough to achieve our international commitments to tackle climate change – we haven’t made anything like the same progress on decarbonising buildings and transport. Whoever forms the next government after the general election, they must prioritise a plan for reducing emissions from all sectors.”
In recent times, coal has experienced significant declines in use, constituting just nine per cent of electricity generation last year – a drop from the 23 per cent seen the year before. And the last coal power station in the UK will be closed in 2025 as the government phases out fossil fuel usage in a bid to hit its climate change commitments.
In 2015, ministers pledged that coal power would be closed down within a decade, replacing it with gas and other sources. Energy secretary Greg Clark said at the time that this move would send a signal around the world that the UK is a strong place to invest in clean energy, and removing coal from the energy mix would “significantly reduce” the country’s emissions.
However, since officials also admitted that the last coal power station would shut up shop in 2022 even without intervention on behalf of the government, campaigners have now been calling for the cut-off year to be brought forward.
Associate fellow of the think-tank Bright Blue Ben Caldecott explained that there are real benefits to phasing coal out sooner rather than later and the 2025 deadline should be brought forward by at least two years so that investors have greater certainty regarding their investments, which will only serve to improve the security of supply.
Just last month, Scottish Power and RenewableUK joined forces to urge MPs to bring in a ban on coal power stations receiving subsidies in the next capacity market auction – so it really does seem as though coal’s days are truly numbered.
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