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.