May 12, 2020 Read More →

U.K. electricity goes coal-free for a month—a first in 138 years

Renew Economy:

The United Kingdom’s rapid decarbonisation of its electricity grid has achieved another significant milestone – completing a whole month (30 days) without coal power for the first time in 138 years.

The milestone was reached on Sunday (UK) time and celebrated by National Grid ESO, the organisation that runs the grid and is responsible for keeping the lights on. It was the first time this occurred since coal power was first used on the UK power system in January 1882, at Holborn Viaduct.

Within a few years, there will be no coal generation at all – with the remaining plants shuttered, and one or two converted to gas by 2025. National Grid aims to be able to operate a fully zero emission grid when weather conditions allow from 2025 and is accelerating its adoption of new technologies and management systems that will allow it to sideline gas power plants when possible.

Just a few days before the new month-long coal-free milestone, National Grid released its latest end of year planning report outlining the main achievements it has made in the long path to a fully decarbonised grid before 2050.

“We’re really proud of our zero carbon targets,” National Grid wrote in a blog a few days earlier. “In May 2019 there was a 2-week period where there was coal free operation of Great Britain’s electricity system. This has quickly been beaten after the record-breaking sunlight in April.”

It noted that the carbon intensity of the electricity system has halved over the last five years, and is down 60 per cent when compared to 2013. “The recent low demand for energy due to COVID-19 has dramatically reduced the use of fossil fuel based generation, and this has been supported by our optimised renewable generation,” it notes.

[Giles Parkinson]

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