Great Britain’s electricity system has gone over 5 days without the use of coal, the longest period since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The country is now on target to reach the first ever week of coal-free operation, later today at 13:24hrs.
The previous record was just under 4 days, where 90 hours were coal-free, earlier in the year.
Coal-fired power generation is a major contributor to carbon dioxide globally and historically is responsible for the high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air today.
Jim Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space, said: “The single greatest threat to the climate comes from burning coal.”
The proportion of the energy mix for which coal is used has significantly dropped in recent years, from 40% six years ago to 5% last year.
The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) is set to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon by 2025. This requires a “fundamental change”, with the need for newer technologies to be integrated into the system and an increase in demand-side participation. This includes large scale off-shore wind farms, domestic solar panels and new smart digital systems.
Fintan Slye, the Director of ESO, commented: “The new products and services we will introduce will help reduce the overall cost of operating the system, driving down costs for consumers.”
GB has already gone more than 1,000 hours in total throughout 2019 without needing coal, now on course to break all the previous records.
Even with the increasing use of renewable energy sources, coal is now largely being replaced by gas. Natural gas contributes less carbon emissions when compared to coal but will still contribute to emissions levels and is a non-renewable source of energy.
Gas is still a fossil fuel and Great Britain is obliged, under the 2008 Climate Change Act, to reduce emissions by 80% in 2050 when compared to the 1990 levels.