UK edges closer towards coal-free summers

The UK is on the brink of eradicating coal from its electricity mix during the summer months, with the fossil fuel accounting for a record-low 1% of power over June this year.


That is according to a new report from Imperial College London, which reveals that Britain achieved more coal-free hours over the second quarter of 2018 than in the previous two years combined.

Commissioned by power group Drax, the report also shows that the UK’s coal fleet ran at just 3% of capacity over the last quarter – now lower than the country’s solar power capabilities.

“Every summer Britain uses less and less coal,” Drax said. “This June the share of the electricity mix dipped below 1% for the first time ever – for 12 days it dropped all the way to zero.

“Spurred on by an uncharacteristically hot summer, and a jump in solar generation, the possibility of the country going entirely coal-free for a full summer now looks more achievable than ever in modern times.”

The data shows that coal was mostly only used in the UK to provide balancing services during the evenings in May and June, but that this trend was not replicated globally.

It was found that coal still provides 38% of electricity across the world – the same amount that it did 30 years ago – despite growing renewable energy investments in Europe and North America.

Overall, coal’s share of electricity generation in Europe has dropped from 39% to 22% over the last 30 years, despite some countries like Poland and Serbia continuing to rely heavily on the fossil fuel.

Even in an era of pro-coal policies, the US managed to reduce its coal generation from 57% to 31%, with the country instead turning to the more economical natural gas.

However, the Middle East, Africa and South America are actually increasing their coal generation, with only the UK, US, Canada, Spain, Ukraine, Poland and Germany recording a decline in the last 30 years.

Drax said: “This highlights a need for longer-term, environmentally and socially-conscious market-based initiatives that encourage meaningful movement to lower-carbon sources, such as the UK and Canada’s Powering Past Coal Alliance.” 


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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