A full 19 hours is the record for the longest continuous time Britain has been going on without coal. The time has been achieved twice, first during May and again this past Thursday.
In order to cut carbon emissions, by 2025, Britain’s government will phase out the country’s last plants.
The fuel of the past:
Last Friday was the first time the country didn’t use coal to generate electricity, since 1882 when the world’s first centralized public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London.
“To have the first working day without coal since the start of the industrial revolution is a watershed moment in how our energy system is changing,” said Cordi O’Hara of the National Grid. “The UK benefits from highly diverse and flexible sources of electricity. Our energy mix continues to change and National Grid adapts system operation to embrace these changes.”
However, as the country transitions to a system with low carbon, coal is still an important source of energy, according to O’Hara.
Almost half of British energy was from natural gas last Friday, while about a quarter came from nuclear plants, as per Gridwatch.co.uk.
The country also used wind, biomass, and imported energy.
For over a century, coal has powered Britain, but the fuel might become history soon after the country has had a 24 hour period without any coal powered generation on Friday.
Two reasons for the historical day; the first is that solar panels and wind turbines provide more electricity to factories and homes. The second is that Friday usually has lower power demand.
Relying less and less on the fossil fuel:
In recent years, the older, uneconomic coal fired plants have closed, and Britain’s energy system has been relying less and less on the fossil fuel.
In December 2015, deep coal mining in Britain came to an end after the last deep coal mine in the UK, Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire closed.
“A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable,” Hannah Martin, from Greenpeace UK, said. “In 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.”
Until the 1990s, Coal stayed a big part of the energy supply. However, in recent years, as plants closed or transferred to burning biomass such as wood bits, its use has fallen.
In 2016, only 9% of electricity generation was from coal, down from 23% in 2015.
But some reports claim that generating electricity by using wood bits is speeding up climate warming.
In February, Chatham House published a study that said that wood is not carbon neutral, meaning that using pellet a flawed policy, as emissions from pellets are higher than coal.
However, the report was rejected by the energy industry, claiming that carbon is significantly cut when using wood to generate energy compared to fossil fuels.