National Grid confirms UK has completed 438 consecutive hours without coal power – and counting
The UK grid has set a new record for its longest run without generating any coal power, surpassing the 18 day stretch completed last summer.
Just after 6am this morning, National Grid confirmed the UK had completed 18 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes "and counting" without using coal power, delivering the longest coal-free period since 1882 when the grid was in its infancy.
Britain's done it! ⚡️💪 It's a new record for the longest period of #coalfree #electricity generation in this country. 18 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨. More to come on this - in the meantime find out more about our #zerocarbon goals below @beisgovuk @PastCoal pic.twitter.com/FlFKr36TzN— National Grid ESO (@ng_eso) April 28, 2020
Analysts indicated the record had been broken thanks to a combination of reduced demand resulting from the coronavirus lockdown and high levels of renewable power generation.
Last week the UK solar industry set a new generation record delivering more than 9.GW of power for the first time, while weather conditions mean wind farms have been performing strongly over the past few weeks.
At the same time, overall power demand has been down by around a fifth compared to expected levels for the time of the year, as shops, factories, and offices have remained shuttered.
Further coal-free power records are expected in the coming months and years, with the UK having closed two more coal plants at the start of this month taking the number of operating plants down to just four. The UK sourced just over two per cent of its power from coal last year and the government remains committed to fully phasing out the use of unabated coal power by 2024.
Dr Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said the latest "remarkable milestone in the decline of coal power in the UK" highlighted the feasibility of running grids with significant reliance on renewables.
"Underneath the latest record lies a bigger story, that the operation of national energy systems with dwindling supplies from fossil fuels is rapidly becoming the norm," he said. "No longer are there questions around the ability of grid operators to keep the system going; instead, attention is turning to rapidly learning as much as possible from conditions where low-carbon power dominates."
He added that the coronavirus crisis had provided grid operators with real world evidence of how the grid could operate for long periods relying to a large extent on variable renewables.
"It is now just a couple of years until the end of coal in the UK, with gas set to play a mere bit-part in power generation by the end of the decade," he said. "It is moments like these that can provide valuable insights into keeping the lights on as we move towards a net zero economy."
Chris Hewett, chief executive at the Solar Trade Association, said the record also highlighted where the government should focus its economic recovery plans. "With the government beginning to consider how best to kick-start the economy following the Covid-19 crisis, it has a golden opportunity to place renewables at the heart of its recovery package," he said. "Solar in particular can provide a glut of quality green jobs and growth at short notice, with your average solar park able to be built in less than six months, and home installation in less than a day. The industry is ready to help drive the revival."
The record comes as carbon market analysts have sharply cut forecast for carbon prices in the EU emissions trading scheme, as countries on Europe see emissions fall as a result of their own coronavirus lockdowns.
A survey of six analysts conducted by Reuters found average forecasts for EU Allowances (EUAs) in the second quarter of €18.42/tonne and €21.92 for the year as a whole, a drop of 31 per cent and 32 per cent drop respectively compared with forecasts given in January.
The reduction in industrial and energy emissions has led to less demand for EUAs, leading to lower prices. The fall in the cost of carbon credits could provide a modest boost to coal generation in some markets, but analysts are predicting prices will recover somewhat next year given the EU's new Market Stability Reserve should reduce the number of EUAs in the market should an oversupply of allowances continue for a sustained period.
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