Britain Breaks Coal-Free Electricity Record

Coal-free electricity record in Britain

Image: Glyn Drury, CC BY-SA 2.0

The impacts of COVID-19 and increasing renewable energy capacity have seen Britain achieve a new record period free of coal-fired electricity generation.

Around mid-afternoon yesterday in Australia, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) tweeted:

“Britain’s done it! It’s a new record for the longest period of #coalfree #electricity generation in this country. 18 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and counting.”

The new record is still being set. Around 5.30AM this morning Adelaide time, UK_Coal tweeted:

“GB Grid: #Coal is generating 0.00GW (0.00%) out of 32.02GW. Continuous time without coal: 18 days 21 hours”

Solar power has had an important part in this event, with an all-time peak generation record of 9.68GW set in Great Britain at 12:30 on Monday 20 April 2020 (local time) . The University of Sheffield Solar Tracker notes just over 13GW of solar capacity is installed in GB.

“Solar is playing a critical role in delivering a fossil-free grid and cleaner, cheaper power to Britain,” said Solar Trade Association (STA) Chief Executive Chris Hewett. “As we look towards a net zero future, solar will become an increasingly greater part of the energy mix, tackling high power prices, climate change, and biodiversity loss.”

Mr. Hewett noted solar power also achieved a weekly generation record last week of 485.41GWh, attributed to ideal weather conditions and lower levels of pollution. The STA says more than 1 terawatt-hour of solar energy has been put into the grid since April 10.

UK_Coal usually produces a breakdown of sources and their shares after a new record is set, so it will be interesting to see how those numbers look. While Britain does import some electricity, as far as I know that is from sources including wind and nuclear energy, not coal.

The previous record for coal-free electricity was set in June last year. Britain achieved its first 100+ hours without coal-fired electricity generation in May 2019.

Towards A UK Entirely Free Of Coal Power

It won’t be long before Britain and the United Kingdom’s electricity system will be entirely coal-free. There are now only four operational coal-fired power stations in the UK – those facilities are, along with their intended closure dates (source: Wikipedia):

  • Drax Units 5 & 6 – March 2021, but will remain available until September 2022
  • West Burton A – 2023
  • Kilroot – 2024
  • Ratcliffe on Soar – 2024

Two of the stations, West Burton A and Ratcliffe on Soar were commissioned back in 1968 – so these two emissions-belching clunkers will have seen 55 and 56 years of service respectively by the time they are closed.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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