Britain goes coal power free – for first time since 1882

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No coal-fired power stations were running between 12am-4am on Tuesday, something experts say has not happened since the construction of UK’s first coal plant in 1882.

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While its people slept, Britain’s electricity network quietly achieved a major milestone this week, going without coal power completely for what is believed to be the first time since the 19th century.

According to the National Grid, none of Britain’s coal-fired power stations were running between midnight and 4am on Tuesday, something experts say has not happened since the era of central electricity generation began, with the construction of the UK’s first coal plant in 1882.

In fact coal remained Britain’s biggest power source as recently as 2013, despite the UK government’s plans to phase it out entirely by 2025.

According to the Telegraph, Jon Ferris from Utilitywise said the event marked a “paradigm shift” that would have been “unthinkable” even two years, ago when oil and gas prices were high.

But the Telegraph also reports that it has since emerged that on Monday evening National Grid was forced to issue an urgent call for more electricity after a series of coal and gas power plant breakdowns and the partial failure of a power import cable.

One plant was paid £1,250/MWh – more than 30 times the usual price of power – after the Grid issued the “Notification of Inadequate System Margin” (Nism) requesting more electricity be generated between 7pm and 9.30pm.

But the paper quoted an “industry source” who said that even if the coal plants had not broken down they would not have been profitable to run in the early hours of Tuesday, as they lost out to a combination of gas, nuclear and wind power.

Meanwhile, the people of Twitter rejoiced…

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