Britain Goes Two Weeks (Plus) Without Coal Power

Coal power in Britain

Cottam Power Station | Image: Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0

Britain has gone 16 days without using coal power for electricity generation – and according to the latest update, the coal-free run isn’t over yet.

This event marks the first time Britain has seen a coal-free fortnight since 1882.

On May 31, National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) tweeted:

“We can now confirm that Great Britain’s electricity system will pass the fortnight mark for no coal generation this afternoon! The last coal generator came off the system at 3.12pm on 17th May – meaning we will achieve #coalfreefortnight at 3:12pm today!!”

Early this morning, National Grid said: “still going – over 16 days without coal.” – that was 384 hours and counting. UK_Coal tweeted a short time ago the figure had reached 392 hours.

In May, Britain also saw its first 100+ hours without coal power, a run that ended early in the month (8 days, 1 hour, 25 minutes). May saw more hours without coal than in January, February and March combined and the month’s total hours without coal-fired electricity generation added up to more than all of 2017.

From the time the coal-free fortnight commenced at 3.12pm on May 17 to the 2-week milestone being reached, here’s how Britain’s electricity supply mix looked:

  • Gas: 39%
  • Coal: 0%
  • Nuclear: 20%
  • Wind: 13.5%
  • Storage: 0.4%
  • Hydro: 0.6%
  • Solar Power: 7.1%
  • Interconnector (imports): 11.8%1
  • Biomass: 7.6%

Solar power’s contribution was significantly more than during the early May record, when it contributed 5%.

Renewable UK applauded the 2-week milestone.

“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,” said RenewableUK Deputy Chief Executive Emma Pinchbeck. “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.”

Coal Power’s Decline In The UK

In 1950, coal power accounted for 97 per cent of all electricity generated in the UK. The UK government commited to phasing out unabated coal use in 2015, setting a target date of 2025. In 2018, coal made up just 5% of electricity supply. The UK only has 7 operating coal power stations left – and one is due to close this year.

In other recent related news, UK solar power set a new record in May for peak generation.


  1. My understanding is Britain’s imports are sources such as wind and nuclear energy, not coal power
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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