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U.K. Has First Day Without Relying on Coal for Power Since 1880s

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 4/22/2017 Anna Hirtenstein and Andrew Reierson
BC-UK-S-COAL-FREE-DAY© Anna Hirtenstein and Andrew Reierson BC-UK-S-COAL-FREE-DAY

The U.K. had its first full day without burning coal to make electricity since the Industrial Revolution more than a century ago, according to grid operator National Grid Plc.

“Friday 21st April 2017 was the first 24-hour period since the 1880s where Great Britain went without coal-fired power stations,” the National Grid control room said in a Twitter post confirming the achievement announced earlier.

The country is getting half of its electricity from gas power plants, 30 percent from renewables and interconnectors and the remainder from nuclear plants, according to Duncan Burt, head of operate the system at National Grid.

The U.K. was an early adopter of renewable energy and has more offshore wind turbines installed than any other country, as well as fields of solar panels with as much capacity at seven nuclear reactors. The government aims to switch off all coal plants by 2025.

“It’s really down to the growing levels of renewables,” Burt said by phone. “We have solar and wind displacing traditional fossil fuels. We’ll start seeing these days more regularly, especially in June and July when it’s sunny.”

Neighboring countries have similar agendas and energy companies across the continent closing and converting coal-burners at a record pace. Europe’s use of the most polluting fossil fuel is drying up quicker than many expected.

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“A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again,” Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace U.K., said in an email.

Action against climate change is the primary reason for the shift to cleaner energy. European Union members have to meet a target to generate 20 percent of their final energy consumption from renewable sources by the end of the decade.

The Paris climate deal in December 2015 brought together almost 200 nations in pledging steps to cut fossil-fuel pollution. 

European countries are furthest ahead in greening their power systems. Britain generated more power from the sun than from its coal fleet last July.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anna Hirtenstein in London at ahirtenstein@bloomberg.net, Andrew Reierson in London at areierson1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net, Carlos Caminada, Margot Habiby

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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