UK set for first coal-free work day since pre-industrial times

Britain is expected to be coal-free on Friday, reports National Grid, as the power sector shifts to cleaner sources of supply

Drax, the UK's biggest coal power station, has converted to partly run on biomass (Flickr/Jonathan Brennan)


Friday is set to be Britain’s first working day without coal power generation since the industrial revolution, according to the grid operator.

It follows coal-free periods in 2016 and reflects a rapid shift away from the polluting fuel.

A spokesperson for National Grid confirmed a tweet from the control room to that effect, adding that it was also expected to be the first 24-hour period without coal.

Three old coal plants closed last year, while surging renewables, cheap gas and a carbon price make the remaining power stations less viable.

A halving of coal use in 2016 was the main driver of a 5.8% fall in UK carbon dioxide emissions, according to Carbon Brief analysis of official data.

The government has pledged to end coal burning by 2025, subject to consultation.

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said the day should be noted by politicians fighting over who will lead the UK through the next stage of its energy transition.

“A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in ten years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again,” she said.

“It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritise making the UK a world leader in clean, green, technology. They will need to get on with the coal phase-out plan and recognise the economic potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency. We can meet the UK’s needs for skilled jobs and fair bills, whilst also meeting our climate targets.”

Britain is phasing out coal faster than some European neighbours like Germany, helped by a surcharge of £18 a tonne of CO2 ($23) on top of the €5 ($5) EU market price.

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