According to the National Grid, the UK managed its first day without coal power since the industrial revolution Friday. It was the first continuous 24 hours without the use of coal since the use of fossil fuels began, after the only running coal-fired power station went offline Thursday. Britain saw shorter periods without coal-use in 2016, with gas and renewable energy like wind and solar picking up the slack, and accounting for a rising portion of the power grid. Until Friday, the longest coal-free period had been 19 hours, achieved in May of last year.
A spokesman for the National Grid said the record breaking day was indicative of things to come, with even more coal-free days on the horizon, as the fossil fuel is phased out. Coal has declined considerably in recent years, responsible for just 9 percent of electricity generated in 2016, falling from 23 percent the previous year. Many coal plants have transitioned into burning biomass fuel such as wood pellets.
As part of a government plan to reduce fossil fuel use to address climate change, the last coal-fired plant in Britain will be forced to close in 2025.
According to Hannah Martin, Greenpeace UK’s head of energy:
“The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition. A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.
“The direction of travel is that both in the UK and globally we are already moving towards a low carbon economy. It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritize making the UK a world leader in clean, green, technology.”
Britain was the first country to begin using coal for energy in 1882, at Thomas Edison’s Holborn Viaduct power station, in London.
World Wildlife Fund’s head of climate and energy, Gareth Redmond-King, called the day “a significant milestone in our march towards the green economic revolution.”
“Getting rid of coal from our energy mix is exciting and hugely important. But it’s not enough to achieve our international commitments to tackle climate change – we haven’t made anything like the same progress on decarbonizing buildings and transport. Whoever forms the next government after the general election, they must prioritize a plan for reducing emissions from all sectors.”