Great Britain has gone over two weeks without using coal power, for the first time since the 1880s, according to BBC News. During the same month, Britain also broke its previous record for the use of solar power. The government is working to phase out coal entirely by 2025 in an effort to limit the carbon emissions that are driving the world’s climate crisis.
“As more and more renewables come onto the system, we’re seeing things progress at an astonishing rate,” said Fintan Slye, director of the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO). He added that the record-breaking period would become a “new normal.”
“2018 was our greenest year to date, and so far, 2019 looks like it has the potential to beat it.”
Britain’s coal-free streak hit its two-week mark on Friday, and as of Sunday, had lasted over 16 days.
On May 14th, one quarter of Britain’s energy came from solar power, which together with wind, nuclear, gas, and hydroelectric power, replaced what would have come from coal.
Britain’s history of coal power use goes back to 1882, when the world’s first coal-fired power station opened at London’s Holborn Viaduct.
“The UK has the largest offshore wind capacity on the planet, can generate more than a quarter of our electricity needs from the sun and last year, more than half of our electricity came from low carbon sources,” said energy and clean growth minister, Chris Skidmore.
Natural gas replaced the majority of coal power this past month, and generates less than half the carbon emissions of coal power. A total of seven coal plants still operate in the UK, used largely as backup power for cold temperatures when energy use spikes.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world will need to cut coal power generation nearly to zero in order to limit global temperature increases to 1.5C.
The government’s independent climate change committee, top scientists, the Labour party, and business leaders are all calling on the government to pass legislation aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The Labour party’s shadow energy secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey urged the government to adopt the target:
“The roll-out of renewable energy is far too slow and the government are set to miss their existing emissions reductions targets. We join with businesses in urging the government to bring forward the UK’s emission reduction targets and implementing a pathway to get there.”
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