Britain goes coal-free for 100 hours, setting new record for energy use
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Britain was powered by sources other than coal for over 100 hours at the weekend, the longest time since the start of the industrial revolution, new figures have revealed.
The National Grid says the country is increasingly less dependant on coal as renewable energy sources are more reliable and the public is installing solar panels at home in ever greater numbers. Reliance on renewable energy sources is now “a more regular occurrence”.
Coal now accounts for under 10 per cent of Britain’s power output and the government plans to phase out the country’s last coal-fired power plants by 2025 in a bid to cut carbon emissions. Of the 31.45 gigawatts (GW) powering the UK on May 5, none was accounted for by the use of coal-fired power stations (1 GW is enough to power 100 million LED lightbulbs).
Renewable energy sources have contributed an increasing proportion of Britain’s power generation in recent years. In 2018 wind generation exceeded 15GW for the first time.
Sean Kemp, a spokesman for the National Grid, said: “We broke the record this weekend for the longest period of time without coal. The continuous period of time without any coal generation on the system was just over 100 hours.
“More people have installed solar, more coal is coming off and there’s more wind in the system”.
Since the start of the year Britain has only used 2.9 terawatt hours (Twh) compared with 8.6 Twh by this point in 2018 – a drop of almost two thirds. At the current rate the UK looks set to far surpass the 1,800 hours of coal-free power generated over the whole of 2018. The world’s first public coal-fired generating plant opened at Holborn Viaduct in London in 1882 and it wasn’t until the 1970s that other sources – mainly natural gas from the North Sea – started to be used in any significant degree. By the 1990s the ‘Dash for gas’ saw demand for gas increase to around 30 per cent, mostly at the expense of coal. Renewable energy sources accounted for 25 per cent of power supply by 2015.
The National Grid said that despite the recent cold snap after the unseasonably warm Easter, there has been no obvious surge in demand, indicating the public have not been putting the heating back on.
Extinction Rebellion (ER), an environmental protest group that brought large parts of the UK to a standstill last month, says the use of fossil fuels is causing irreparable harm to the life on earth
“Until our demands are met the rebellion has to continue”.
A government spokesman said: “Decarbonising our energy system is a crucial part of our commitment to ending our contribution to global warming.
“This year we’ve already reached the major milestone of 1,000 hours without using coal to power our homes and industry.
“We’re closing in on phasing out coal entirely from our power system by 2025 as our renewables sector goes from strength to strength on our path to becoming the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions.”
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