The power grid has now been operating for more than seven days without any domestic coal generation, National Grid has confirmed.
The one-week mark was passed at 1.24pm today (8 May). It is the longest coal-free period in Great Britain since the first coal power station was opened in London in 1882.
Fintan Slye, director of the electricity system operator at National Grid said such events will soon become the “new normal”.
“As more and more renewables come onto our energy system, coal-free runs like this are going to be a regular occurrence”, he explained. “We believe that by 2025 we will be able to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon…
“To help us reach today’s significant milestone, we have been working with industry over the last few years to ensure the services we require to operate the network are not dependent on coal. We have been forecasting the closure of coal plant and reduced running for some time – due to us having to manage more renewables on the system.”
He added: “Operating a zero-carbon electricity system in 2025, whenever there is sufficient renewable generation, is a major stepping stone to full decarbonisation of the entire electricity system. This will enable new technologies and removes barriers to ever increasing levels of renewables.”
Great Britain has now officially gone a full week without coal!!!
This is the first time since the original coal power station launched back in 1882 #zerocoal
— National Grid ESO (@ng_eso) May 8, 2019
Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit head of analysis Jonathan Marshall said: “Yet another new record for a coal-free power grid further buries the notion that moving away from the most polluting fuels will see the lights go off. Outdated warnings that cutting carbon from our power system would lead to blackouts have been comprehensively proven to be incorrect.”
“However, to keep the records rolling in, the government needs to ensure that the low-carbon pipeline does not run dry, he added. “A slowdown in solar installations and the grounding of new onshore wind capacity has put all of our eggs in the offshore wind basket.
“While the costs of offshore wind have plummeted, it is not sensible to rely on a single source of power. The government has itself admitted itself it needs to speed decarbonisation, so finding a way to boost onshore renewables and nuclear power generation should be an urgent priority.”
The previous record was set in April when the power grid went coal-free for nearly 92 hours. The UK government has pledged to phase out unabated coal generation by 2025 and alongside the Canadian government created the Powering Past Coal Alliance to persuade other countries to end their reliance on the fossil fuel.