Graph of the Day: UK has first coal-free day since industrial revolution | RenewEconomy

Graph of the Day: UK has first coal-free day since industrial revolution

UK goes without coal power for 24 hours; a first since start of industrial revolution, but set to become “more and more common.”


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.
UKcoalfreeCoal 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.”

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.


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  1. Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

    Well done UK. But elsewhere, we may need to start achieving some focus on this issue by having the first head-free day since the French Revolution.

  2. George Darroch 4 years ago

    Still a huge amount of gas being burned, comparable to Australia’s fossil supply. A while to go yet.

  3. nakedChimp 4 years ago

    The lights over there must go out any minute now.


  4. david H 4 years ago

    Interesting that the UK as an overpopulated island can still produce c.2,000 MWe of base load power from biomass and waste = plenty of scope for Aus to do a lot more in this area in addition to wind and solar.

    • Bristolboy 4 years ago

      The vast majority of the biomass is burned in converted coal stations and imported from questionable sources. It also required a subsidy much more than that for wind and solar. Theoretically it was a useful stop-gap 5-10 years ago, but I would say wind, solar and storage is now much better for the environment and economic.

      • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

        Couldn’t agree more, serious air quality issues besides the dodgy financial and carbon accounting.

  5. Bristolboy 4 years ago

    Just worth pointing out that contrary to the article, this was Britain that was coal free NOT the UK. The UK includes Northern Ireland which was producing electricity from coal throughout the day.

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