The UK has gone without energy generated from coal for 24 hours – the first time since the start of the industrial revolution in 1882.
West Burton 1, a coal fired power station in Nottinghamshire, went off at 22:50 last Thursday marking the start of the 24 hour period.
Half way through the period, National Grid said the average generation mix was made up from 50.3% gas, 21.2% nuclear, 12.2% wind, 8.3% imports, 6.7% biomass and 3.6% solar.
More coal free days are hoped for over the summer, however the initial date was chosen due to typically lower demands on a Friday combined with the Easter holiday break.
“To have the first working day without coal since the start of the industrial revolution will be a watershed moment in how our energy system is changing,” said National Grid director of system operator Cordi O’Hara. “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, it’s important to remember coal is still an important source of energy as we transition to a low carbon system.”
In November 2015, the government pledged to go coal free by 2025 with the then energy secretary Amber Rudd saying it was not ‘satisfactory for an advanced economy like the UK to be relying on polluting, carbon intensive 50-year-old coal-fired power stations’.
Demand for the fossil fuel has been declining steadily over recent years, however, a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) published late last year said the closure of UK coal and nuclear plants would create an electricity supply gap of up to 55% by 2025. It stated there was not enough time to plug the gap and plans to build a number of Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plants were unrealistic.
There are currently seven coal fired powered stations left supplying the grid.
One of the biggest, Drax in Selby, North Yorkshire, recently converted three of its six boilers from coal to low carbon biomass.