Great Britain will have gone a whole fortnight without generating any electricity from coal by the time you read this article, smashing all previous records and ringing the death knell for the country’s coal industry.
We’ve already seen that this latest record is unlike those that have come before it as, on Wednesday, the hours without coal surpassed 281 hours, nearing 12 days without generating any electricity from coal. The article was written under the assumption that coal would kick back at any moment, and it was worth highlighting the new record. Great Britain has been steadily extending its “hours without coal” record for several weeks, now, and it was assumed that the new record would hover around the 12-day mark.
Well … you know what happens when you assume things.
As of writing, Great Britain has now surpassed 14 days without generating any electricity from coal — that’s 336 hours. Further, National Grid — the country’s grid manager — announced with hours to spare that “Great Britain’s electricity system will pass the fortnight mark for no coal generation this afternoon!”
Additionally, this means that Britain has enjoyed more coal-free hours this month (679 hours) than it did for the whole of 2017 (624 hours).
“This new milestone demonstrates yet again that wind has become a mainstream power source for the UK, generating 17% of our annual electricity needs,” said RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Emma Pinchbeck, when asked for comment. “Renewables overall are playing a leading role in our energy mix, providing a third of our power – and have been crucial to phasing out dirty coal.”
“Ending the use of coal is just the beginning of a move away from fossil fuels to low carbon sources, to avoid the enormous risks of climate disruption. The Government’s adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, has said that we can only achieve net-zero emissions with a massive increase in renewables. The Government has been told to act now to build on the coal phase-out, investing in our world-leading renewable industry and the jobs it brings, including technologies which are currently absent from Government policy, from innovative wave and tidal power to cheap onshore wind.”
“Coal was the backbone of the last industrial revolution – but this old technology is being beaten by wind energy, the powerhouse of our 21st Century economy,” Pinchbeck added in a separate press release published by RenewableUK on the back of National Grid’s announcement. “Renewables are providing well over a third of our electricity today, and this is just the beginning. We need to move from fossil fuels right across the economy to avoid the enormous risks of climate disruption and to benefit from modern, clean, technologies.
“But the Government’s scientific advisors say that we can only achieve a net zero economy with a massive increase in renewable electricity to power the change. We need to act now to build on the coal phase-out and our world-leading renewables industry, including technologies like innovative wave and tidal power and fantastically cheap onshore wind.”
“The UK started the industrial revolution with coal, and after 140 years, we’re showing that coal is obsolete,” said Dustin Benton of the UK’s Green Alliance, when reached for comment. “By 2025, the UK will see not just coal power plants shut permanently, but periods without any fossil fuelled electricity at all. This is not just a British story. The lesson for coal companies worldwide is that clean energy, efficiency and demand response are both cheaper and better. The lesson for governments is that it’s past time to plan a just transition for workers in the fossil fuel industry: clean energy jobs are the future.”
“Thanks to rapidly improving renewable technology and increased energy efficiency, coal is becoming a bit player in the UK electricity mix,” added Jack Dobson-Smith, a spokesperson for the UK Solar Trade Association. “Solar has certainly played a significant part, with this month also seeing the solar generation peak record tumble. We can expect many more coal-free days in the future, and solar’s contribution to these will rise with an anticipated 4-7GW set to be deployed over the next four years, with no need for subsidy. This transition to a clean energy future is essential if we are to tackle the climate emergency, and rising investment in solar will drive green jobs and skills for years to come.”