Britain goes coal free

Britain goes coal free

This week the National Grid confirmed that Britain did not use coal to generate electricity from Saturday morning to Tuesday afternoon, our longest streak since the 19th century and only a few days after the previous record of 55 hours was set. Instead the majority of our electricity was generated from wind and gas.

In total coal generated just 7% of all our electricity in 2017, our lowest since it was added to the mix. In addition, Britain went it’s first day without using coal since the 1880’s in April of the same year.

However, despite the UK government pledging to phase our coal generated electricity by 2025 experts warned that power generated by coal largely being replaced by gas, another fossil fuel, rather than renewable sources would do little to reduce our overall carbon emissions. The 2008 Climate Change Act requires greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 80% compared with 1990 levels by 2050.

Andrew Crossland, of the Durham Energy Institute, said gas generated 40% of the UK’s electricity and fuelled the vast majority of domestic heating: “As a country we consume nearly eight times more gas than coal.”

The daily consumption of gas was outstripped by wind on just two days last year, while all sources of renewable energy – including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower – beat fossil fuels for just 23 days of 2017 with gas making up the majority of the fossil fuel usage.

Hannah Martin, from Greenpeace UK, called on the government to provide more support for onshore wind and solar power – the “cleanest and cheapest energy sources”.

“Offshore wind has proven to be popular and able to provide affordable clean energy, as well as skilled jobs and fair bills,” she said.

“As we have more and more days without coal, we need to make sure it is replaced with the renewable technologies of the future.”

Mr Crossland also called for more investment in renewable technologies, such as solar panels and batteries, to store power for homes and businesses, along with better energy efficiency to reduce power use.

The gradual phasing out of coal generated electricity is pleasing, especially as we are managing for longer periods without it. The target of 2025 is realistic and we fully expect us to reach it comfortably. However we share Mr. Crossland’s concern regarding the use of gas as a replacement.

Although gas is a cleaner fossil fuel than coal it is still a fossil fuel and in the long term does little to affect our carbon emissions. If the government is serious about creating a cleaner environment for all we share Ms Martin’s and Mr. Crossland’s call for more support and investment for renewable energy and in particular onshore wind and solar generation.

Both are proven technologies with costs now on a par with other traditional generation methods but a lack of support at higher levels has stagnated both at a time when their growth levels were producing more and more clean energy each day.

We therefore believe that time is right to increase the amount of new onshore wind and solar projects with the aim of reducing our carbon emissions and creating a cleaner environment for us all to live in.




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