Great Britain went over 90 hours without producing electricity from coal over the Easter weekend, according to the country’s national grid operator, breaking its previous record set a year earlier.
Coal use in Great Britain has fallen off rapidly over the last few years – unsurprisingly, considering that the Government is planning to phase out coal use entirely by 2025. Over the first quarter of 2019, coal produced only 2.9 TWh – down 37.2% from the previous quarter and down 65% from the same quarter a year earlier – while renewable energy sources generated 27.2 TWh over the same first quarter period.
It is unsurprising, then, that Britain can boast lengthy periods of time where it does not generate any electricity from coal.
However, it is the lengths of time which Britain goes without coal that makes this so impressive. In April of 2018, Great Britain experienced a 55-hour coal-free period, which was followed up a week later by a 76-hour coal-free period. In fact, by the end of 2018, Britain had experienced over 1,000 cumulative hours without coal-fired electricity generation.
Over the past Easter weekend, however, the coal-free generation record was smashed in Great Britain, increasing to 90 hours and 45 minutes without coal-fired electricity generation in its electricity mix.
Duncan Burt, director of operations at National Grid, the country’s national grid operator, told BBC Radio 5 Live it was “a really big deal.”
“It’s all about the sunny weather we’ve been seeing, so energy demand is low. There has been lots of lovely solar power off the panels too.”
“89 hours of coal-free electricity is great but let’s make this all day every day,” added Muna Suleiman, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, presumably speaking before the end of the record-breaking run of coal-free electricity generation. “Electricity generated by renewable sources is a key part of the fight against climate chaos so it’s time to remove all the blockers to renewable energy.
“The government must prioritise the development of sources such as solar and onshore wind.”
However, while it is obviously good news to see coal so clearly eradicated from Britain’s electricity mix, experts warned that its absence in the mix was being primarily accounted for by natural gas, and while natural gas is a less impactful fossil fuel than coal, it is nevertheless still a fossil fuel with its own damaging impacts to the environment. Further, an over reliance on natural gas opens Britain up to the whims of international gas markets.
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