Britain has first coal-free week since Industrial Revolution

Materials World magazine
14 May 2019

Britain had its first coal-free week for a century, and is planning to phase out coal-fired plants by 2025. 

For the first time since the 1800’s, Britain had a week without using electricity from burning coal, according to the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO). The last coal generator came off the system at 1.30pm on Wednesday 1 May up until 1.30pm the following Wednesday. 

Although Coal-fired power stations still play a major part in the UK’s energy system, an increase in demand for renewable energy sources such as wind power means coal is required less. The government plans to phase out the UK’s last coal-fired plants by 2025 to reduce carbon emissions. 

‘Going a week without coal for the first time since the Industrial Revolution is a huge leap forward in our world-leading efforts to reduce emissions, but we’re not stopping there,’ said Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark.‘To combat climate change and seize on the opportunities of clean growth, we’re phasing out coal entirely by 2025 and building a cleaner, greener energy system.

‘We want to carry on breaking records, which is why we’ve put foundations in place to allow our renewables sector to thrive. We’re now on a path to become the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions.’

The coal-free week was achieved since 1882, when the world’s first centralised public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London. The coal-free week comes only two years after Britain’s first coal free day since the Industrial Revolution. 

According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), reductions in coal used in the UK have been responsible for halving electricity generation emissions since 2013. A report recently released by CCC called for the UK to pursue a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

‘As more and more renewables come onto our energy system, coal-free runs like these are going to be a regular occurrence,’ said ESO Director Fintan Slye. ‘We believe that by 2025 we will be able to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon. 

 ‘Zero carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate – integrating newer technologies right across the system – from large scale off-shore wind to domestic scale solar panels to increased demand side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real-time.

‘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.’