Two years after the British parliament first vowed to phase out all ‘unabated coal-fired generation’ – a goal it has set to achieve by 2025 – the UK has charted its first coal-free working day since the start of the industrial revolution.
The National Grid Tweeted the milestone on Friday, confirming that “for the past 24 hours, it had supplied GB’s electricity demand without the need for #coal generation.”
According to further NG tweets – and as the graph below illustrates – Friday’s average generation mix was made up of: gas 50.3 per cent, nuclear 21.2 per cent, wind 12.2 per cent, imports 8.3 per cent, biomass 6.7 per cent, and solar 3.6 per cent. Of the 8.3 per cent imports, the mix was 59.7 per cent from France, 36.8 per cent from the Netherlands, and 3.5 per cent from the Republic of Ireland, NG said.
Coal was back in the mix on Saturday, but not by much.
“The Industrial Revolution started with coal and it’s been the absolute backbone of our power for most of the time since,” said Duncan Burt, head of real-time operations at the National Grid.
“It’s a very proud moment for us to be there on the first day when we weren’t burning coal.”
— NG Control Room (@NGControlRoom) April 21, 2017
Burt also said he expected Britain’s grid to achieve more coal-free days heading into summer, with more periods of low demand and high solar power, and with overall demand being tempered by more efficient homes and appliances.
“Days like this will become more and more common in the next two or three years, and by the early 2020s burning coal will become increasingly rare,” he said.
Meanwhile, here’s what the rest of Europe looked like on that same day. Note the 49GW capacity of solar at its peak in early afternoon.