Britain Goes Record Two Months Without Coal Power Generation

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(Bloomberg) --

Britain has gone a record two months without burning coal, the longest the dirtiest fossil fuel hasn’t been used for power since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

It’s been more than 60 days since the last coal generator came off the U.K.’s power network. The fuel’s portion of the power generation mix dropped from 40% just seven years ago to 2.5% in 2019.

“We’re still coal-free and are not anticipating bringing coal onto the system in the near future,” the system operator at National Grid PLC said.

Britain’s reliance on coal for electricity has slumped amid record output from renewables and reduced demand as virus-related lockdowns kept industry and commerce largely closed.

The lowest gas prices for a decade have also upturned the economics for burning the fuel for power above more expensive coal. “Coal was being pushed out of the merit order in U.K. electricity well before Covid-19, with cheaper renewables, nuclear and gas plants meeting demand,” said James Brabben, an analyst at Cornwall Insight.

Britain Goes Record Two Months Without Coal Power Generation

“This achievement would once have been unimaginable, but the U.K. rightly took the chance to be a world leader in phasing out coal,” said Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace U.K.

In February, the government announced it planned to bring forward the deadline for the phase-out of coal from Britain’s energy system by a year to Oct. 1, 2024. “The economics could mean coal plants close sooner,” James Brabben said.

The same changes to the electricity mix can be seen across Europe such as Germany, where coal plants are being squeezed out by record amounts of renewable power.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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