National Grid Expects Friday, April 21 To Be First Coal-Free Day In UK Since Industrial Revolution

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The National Grid control room predicted early on April 21 that Friday would be the first 24-hour coal-free period in Britain since the Industrial Revolution. The nation has coal-free periods before thanks to natural gas and renewable energy from wind and solar but never for a full 24-hour period. The longest continuous period until now was 19 hours, a landmark first achieved on a weekend last May, and matched again on Thursday.

A National Grid spokesman said the coal-free record is a sign of things to come, with coal-free days becoming increasingly common as the use of coal to generate electricity is phased out. Coal use has declined significantly in recent years. It accounted for just 9% of electricity generation in 2016, which was down from 23% the year before, as coal fired generating plants closed or switched to burning biomass such as wood pellets. Britain’s last coal powered facility will be forced to close in 2025 as part of a government plan to phase out the use of coal to meet its climate change commitments.

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said:

“The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition. A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again. The direction of travel is that both in the UK and globally we are already moving towards a low carbon economy. It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritise making the UK a world leader in clean, green, technology.”

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF, called the first coal-free working day “a significant milestone in our march towards the green economic revolution.”

“Getting rid of coal from our energy mix is exciting and hugely important. But it’s not enough to achieve our international commitments to tackle climate change – we haven’t made anything like the same progress on decarbonizing buildings and transport. Whoever forms the next government after the general election, they must prioritize a plan for reducing emissions from all sectors.” 

Britain became the first country to use coal for electricity when Thomas Edison opened the Holborn Viaduct power station in London in 1882. It was reported in the Observer at the time that “a hundred weight of coal properly used will yield 50 horse power for an hour.” And that each horse power “will supply at least a light equivalent to 150 candles.” Amazing stuff. Imagine if Edison had focused on solar power rather than generators powered by steam made from heating water with coal fires.

National Grid later clarified its tweet to say it was referring only to using coal to make electricity, not industrial uses such as steel production. Once person carped on the NG Twitter feed that there really weren’t any electric generating facilities of any kind at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Source: The Guardian

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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