UK’s longest ever coal-free run comes to an end

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The UK’s electricity network’s longest ever coal-free run has officially reached its end after almost three successful weeks. On Tuesday 4th June 2019, at 9:20 pm, the UK’s record-breaking run without coal-fired power came to an end after 18 days and 6 hours. This is a huge achievement as the UK is on a clear path away from burning fossil fuels to generate its electricity, with more coal-free runs predicted in future.

The end of the coal-free run

The National Grid ESO announced the end of the run in a tweet on Tuesday 4th June. “Due to plant availability and system requirements, our current coal run has come to an end at 9.20pm this evening,” it said in a Tweet.

Despite the UK being forced to come back to the world of coal that night, it still provided only a small fraction of the total power mix in the UK overnight. According to Twitter account UK coal, which produces hourly updates on the coal generation of National Grid, confirmed that the coal generation peaked at only 1.06 per cent overnight before it dropped back down to zero.

The new norm

Coal-free runs are predicted to become the new norm over the summer months as the UK continues to use renewable energy for generating electricity. During the latest run, 40 per cent of generation for the grid was gas, 20 per cent nuclear, 13 per cent wind, 11 per cent imports, 8 per cent biomass and 7 per cent solar. Lastly, UK coal confirmed that large hydro and storage projects offered less than 1 per cent each.

By 2025, the UK government has plans to shut down the remaining coal-fired power stations. By the same date, the National Grid aims to operate a zero-carbon power system. These are currently 7 coal-fired power stations still running in the UK. One of these, however, is confirmed to close in September this year.

A long way to go

Despite the praise from environmental campaigners for this progress in decarbonising the UK’s energy supply, we cannot ignore that there is still plenty of room for progress in other areas. According to BEIS figures that were released in March, although the UK’s gas emissions dropped by 3 per cent in 2018 from 2017, the transport and business sectors are yet to see any difference to be made.

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