With half of its electricity coming from natural gas and another 30% from renewables, the United Kingdom marked the first day in more than 130 years that it went without burning coal for energy.
“Friday 21st April 2017 was the first 24-hour period since the 1880s where Great Britain went without coal-fired power stations,” the National Grid control room tweeted.
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“It’s really down to the growing levels of renewables,” system operations head Duncan Burt told Bloomberg. “We have solar and wind displacing traditional fossil fuels. We’ll start seeing these days more regularly, especially in June and July when it’s sunny.”
National Grid “later clarified its tweet to say it was referring only to using coal to make electricity, not industrial uses such as steel production,” CleanTechnica notes. But the announcement was still hailed as an important milestone.
“The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition,” wrote Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK. “A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.” She called the “direction of travel” in the low-carbon transition “a clear message to any new government that they should prioritize making the UK a world leader in clean, green technology.”
CleanTechnica recalls that Britain was the country where the coal era began when Thomas Edison opened the Holborn Viaduct power station in London in 1882. Now, Britain has promised to phase out coal generation by 2025, subject to consultations, and is pursuing that goal more aggressively than some other EU countries.
But after Prime Minister Theresa May issued a surprise statement calling national elections for June 8, climate change minister Nick Hurd said release of the country’s long-term Clean Growth Plan (CGP) was sitting “in a holding pattern”, while the government decided “in short order” what policies to publish before the vote.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee Chair Iain Wright, who will not be seeking re-election, warned the government could open itself to criticism on its climate commitments if it fails to release the policy.
“If the CGP is not issued this side of the general election, that sends out a very clear message about the priorities for this government,” he said.