National Grid has announced that on Friday 21 April 2017 Britain achieved 24 hours without using coal-fired power stations for the first time in 135 years. This is a new milestone for the UK’s energy system transition to low carbon and renewable energy sources.
The share of electricity from UK coal power plants went to zero at about 11pm on Thursday 20th April, and remained at zero until after midnight on Friday 21st April, making it the first working day in which no electricity came from coal.
“To have the first working day without coal since the start of the industrial revolution is a watershed moment in how our energy system is changing,” said Cordi O’Hara, director of UK system operator at National Grid.
The first steam-driven public power station opened in the 1882, at 57 Holborn Viaduct in London, and for the last 135 years has been a mainstay of the UK power networks. Coal fired power generation has recently been dropping to zero occasionally for short periods, but never for a full working day. This is a momentous change in power generation for the UK: in 2015 coal accounted for 23 per cent of UK electricity generation, dropping to just 9 per cent in 2016.
National Grid officials said that demand for electricity in the week after the Easter holiday had been low, and a large amount of wind and nuclear power had helped to create the zero-coal day. During the afternoon of 21 April natural gas power plants were supplying 47 per cent of the country’s electricity, while nuclear plants and wind farms each provided 18 per cent. The remaining 17 percent of UK power generation came from solar panels and biomass.