UK surpasses 1,000 hours without coal by 2018 midway point

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Despite a cold blast and gas shortages, the UK has gone without coal for 1,000 hours – and only midway through the year.

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In 2016 the UK only experienced 210 hours in which it didn’t need coal energy in its electricity mix. In 2017 that number jumped to 624 hours, but 2018 is set to blow that figure out of the water, with the number of hours the UK has gone without coal has already surpassed 1,000 hours, and we’re only at the halfway point of the year.

The number of hours the UK goes without coal is tracked by MyGridGB, a non-affiliated website that tracks the British Electricity Transition from reliance on coal and nuclear to new renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, and biomass.

As of writing, according to figures provided by MyGridGB based on data provided by Sheffield University and Elexon, the company responsible for managing the electricity and trading arrangements of England and Wales, the UK has gone 1,053 cumulative hours without coal in 2018, which is already a 68% increase on the whole of 2017 and a whopping 401% on the whole of 2016.

What makes these figures even more impressive is the fact that, earlier this year, the UK experienced a massive cold wave – dubbed the Beast from the East – which sent temperatures plummeting and, unfortunately, coincided with gas outages, all of which saw coal make a temporary return to prominence as residents looked to keep warm.

However, coal’s resurgence really was only temporary and in April the electricity mix returned to normal.

In a way, this is a little unsurprising, considering the records the UK has already experienced this year. April, the first full month after the Beast from the East dissipated, saw a record 55 consecutive hours without using coal in the energy mix, a record which was almost immediately broken a week later when the energy mix went 76 consecutive hours without coal.

Further, according to MyGridGB, limiting the timeframe to the last 4 weeks, the longest stretch without coal was a mammoth 67 hours.

While at the moment the top two forms of electricity generation in the UK are natural gas and nuclear, figures published late-June by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy showed that renewable electricity (a combination of all renewable sources) topped 30 per cent through the first quarter of the year, and that wind energy beat out nuclear , 19.1 per cent to 17.9 per cent.

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24 Comments
  1. Joe 1 year ago

    The UK doing without the Coal is lovely reading. So what is their plan for the Gas and the Nu Clear into the future.

    • Crankydaks 1 year ago

      Increase its gas and nuclear capacity I suspect,

    • Climatemonster 1 year ago

      There are plans which now look outmoded for 2 new and very pricey nukes. Not much new gas is being built. The Brexit lunacy seems to be devouring most government time at present so normal business is on the back burner until this can be stopped, or until the Brextremists get their way. GOK what will happen in the latter eventuality but demand would I suspect fall off as deindustrialisation proceeded and economic activity went into decline.

      • Ian 1 year ago

        The UK is an island , not a ship, it can only exit Europe politically not physically, all the interconnectedness will probably continue regardless of Brussels;)

        • Coley 1 year ago

          That’s all we wanted, a political disconnect, if Brussels wants to bugger up trade…then they (theEU) will be the eventual loser.

    • MacNordic 1 year ago

      Nuclear: Most of the current fleet are scheduled to reach the end of their useful lifetime in the 2020s (two in 2023 and 2024, respectively; one in 2028), the remaining three in 2030 (two) and 2035 (one). New builds were planned, of the ten originally envisaged only three have proceeded somewhat: Oldbury and Wylfa are somewhere (lost) in planning stage*, only Hinkley Point C is in construction stage. Expected building cost: £20bn. Only went forward because of the most expensive subsidies ever: an 2012 indexed “strike price” of £92.50/MWh for 35 years (indexed=rising with inflation). When generation starts sometime in 2025 or later, the MWh price will be well over £120…

      Backlash at that has been significant, to say the least, so the government has been reluctant to agree on something similar for the other proposals. (Offshore wind was at £57.50/MWh for 2022/23; Onshore wind significantly below that in the £30-50 range. Fixed, not indexed. For 15 or 20 years, not 35.)

      Gas is much more complicated; in short: domestic gas reserves are massively depleted and are expected to cover less than 75% of demand by 2021. While there are plenty of gas power stations, overall usage will likely get more expensive (assumption: imports being more expensive than own production), thus pricing itself out of the market. Hopefully.

      *at least there has been no CfD/ strike price or similar been agreed for them

      • phillyc 1 year ago

        Nuclear: Never cheap and never on time. That is just the construction and commisioning let alone the decommissioning which going on Hinkley is costly and indefinite.

      • Joe 1 year ago

        Thanks for the information

        • MacNordic 1 year ago

          A pleasure!

      • heinbloed 1 year ago

        One to add:

        https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/fingrid_olkiluoto_fire_could_cause_power_cuts/10312512

        The new EPR in Olkiluoto (still not operating) would be of little help.

    • heinbloed 1 year ago

      Power imports have to make up for the failing fossile and atom power industry – says the government:

      https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/20/drax-power-station-boss-warns-against-reliance-electricity-imports-interconnectors

      linking to

      https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/updated-energy-and-emissions-projections-2017

      Note that during the 1,000h shut-down of the UK’s coal power plants the UK grid was importing (coal-) power from abroad.

      About 7% of the British power demand was (net-)imported in the first half of 2018.
      The total of 2017 saw only 6% net imports with France hardly tapped since French atom power was to expensive.
      Dutch power traded on to the UK is coming from Germany.
      Irish power is traded on to the UK is from fossile fuels and peat, the REs stay in the republic.

      Norway does not want to build more than 1 interconnector, planned were in the past two interconnectors:

      https://e24.no/energi/stroem/statnett-vil-vente-med-ny-britisk-stroemkabel/24379468

      Norway’s people oposition is understandable,the power supply of Norway is now becoming critical:

      https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL4N1UD40X

      • Joe 1 year ago

        More links, more good readings…vielen dank Heinbloed.

        • Coley 1 year ago

          Icelands surplus of RE would be quite welcome here in the U.K.-;)

      • itdoesntaddup 1 year ago

        Dutch power on the BritNed interconnector is coming from the Maasvlakte power stations at the mouth of Rotterdam harbour, to which it is connected, except when all those stations are shut down. The Dutch are in turn importing power from Germany.

        You are also incorrect about Ireland. When wind output is high, Ireland exports its surplus to the UK within the capacity of the interconnectors (after which it has to curtail in order to maintain adequate levels of grid inertia and the generation that provides it). When wind output is low, Ireland imports from the UK to make good the shortfall, in a bid to avoid starting up coal fired power. You can see these modes of operation is this chart:

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/12fcfe6e695b58a2a497ed4521dd30b631cb058268799591829498342f4e951b.png

    • Coley 1 year ago

      To much reliance on both, unfortunately.

  2. Speedted 1 year ago

    The Idiots in COALition are demanding new HELE coal fired power plants when renewables are so much cheaper and opportunities are readily available

  3. heinbloed 1 year ago

    Despite using less coal in the power sector asthma is on a sharp increase:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/18/asthma-deaths-rise-25-amid-growing-air-pollution-crisis

    • Coley 1 year ago

      Now that they can’t blame smoking as the main cause of respiratory disease, the real culprits are being exposed.
      Now,nobody can claim smoking wasn’t/is a real danger, but now smoking is at an all time low and respiratory disease is still climbing, then the car companies and other polluters need to be hammered as hard as were the tobacco companies.

    • MaxG 1 year ago

      It’s the windmills creating all the dust devils…
      (sarcasm)

    • MaxG 1 year ago

      Another example of politicians not caring about the people they supposedly represent. No guts to introduce car-free days, ban vehicles not meeting a certain standard. Turn whole precincts into pedestrian zones, etc. Heaps of examples in Europe.

  4. itdoesntaddup 1 year ago

    Well – not really. The UK has been enjoying almost continuous supply of around 1GW on the BritNed interconnector – which is fed by the Maasvlakte coal and biomass co-fired power stations. The figures also ignore the heavily CO2 emitting biomass operation at Drax, burning US woodchips. If course, these tricks allow them to claim a lie.

    • Peter Thomson 1 year ago

      Burning biomass is CO2 emitting, but this is part of the natural carbon cycle which does not contribute to climate change. The carbon in biomass was built from CO2 captured from atmosphere and is being returned to atmosphere. This is entirely different from burning fossil fuels, coal, oil, gas, which introduces new (old) carbon into the cycle and increases total CO2 concentration.

      The UK has four interconnectors:
      – 1GW from the Netherlands that you mention;
      – A 2GW interconnector from France, which is generally importing and
      predominantly nuclear;
      – Two interconnectors with Ireland totalling 1GW which consistently export,
      though not at full capacity.

      If you account for all four interconnectors together rather than just cherry-picking the the one from the Netherlands, the figure is even more positive in favour of non-emitting generation.

      • itdoesntaddup 1 year ago

        The claim is NO reliance on coal. It is bogus, because of the BritNed interconnector. End of.

        The biomass story is frankly absurd: there is no doubting that more CO2 is emitted while burning wood chips than would have been had the plant remained coal fired. Any carbon sink is elsewhere, and decades into the future, according to the best analyses. Meanwhile, the UK is helping to deforest the USA.

        That the French interconnector is importing nuclear is as irrelevant to the claim of no reliance on coal as the operation of nuclear power in the UK.

        The Moyle interconnector is with Northern Ireland, which is a) part of the UK and b) very largely a separate market from the Republic: maximum interconnection at present across the border runs at 100MW Southbound and 200MW Northbound – although there are plans to provide 1.5GW that have recently been approved. If you look at the record over time, you will see that both Moyle and E-W run in both directions. The chart I provided shows how the operation runs – the UK provides balancing services within the interconnector capacities.

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