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Britain goes coal free!

Britain goes coal free!

Britain is about to pass a HUGE landmark. At midnight on Wednesday 10th June, it will have gone two full months without burning coal to generate power. That’s right. You read that correctly.

A decade ago about 40% of the country’s electricity came from coal and, strangely, coronavirus has actually had a positive effect on our fuel consumption as a nation. When Britain went into lockdown, electricity demand plummeted and the National Grid responded by taking power plants off the network.

The four remaining coal-fired plants were among the first to be shut down abd the last coal generator came off the system at midnight on 9 April.

No coal has been burnt for electricity since.

The current coal-free period smashes the previous record of 18 days, 6 hours and 10 minutes which was set in June last year.

The figures apply to Britain only though, as Northern Ireland is not on the same National Grid. But it reveals just how dramatic the transformation of our energy system has been in the last decade.

The country’s sweeping change in fuel consumption has been thanks in large part to the massive investment in renewable energy over the last decade.

A decade ago just 3% of the country’s electricity came from wind and solar, which many people saw as a costly distraction. Now the UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world, as well as the largest single wind farm, completed off the coast of Yorkshire last year.

And it is not just coal that is being eclipsed by renewables. So far this year, renewables have generated more power than all fossil fuels put together.

Breaking it down, renewables were responsible for 37% of electricity supplied to the network versus 35% for fossil fuels. Nuclear accounted for about 18% and imports for the remaining 10% or so. With gas also in decline, there’s a real chance that renewables will overtake fossil fuels in 2020 as a whole.

Setting the figures for this year context shows just how quickly this turnaround has happened. The first day when renewable power out-generated fossil fuels was in December 2016.

Before this year, there had been a total of 154 days when the combined power created from renewable sources exceeded those from fossil fuels. Data shows that 91 of those days occurred in 2019.

The remaining three coal plants in Britain are set to close in the next couple of years. Then the fuel that sparked the industrial revolution here in Britain almost two centuries ago will be a thing of the past.

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