This encouraging statistic could hopefully spell the end of traditional coal-fired power stations as the UK has set a new record for being powered without the aid of coal for just over 3 consecutive days.
Coal has a long history of being the backbone of the UK’s domestic and industrial power requirements since the Industrial Revolution, but it looks like that could be about to change. Last year saw the first milestone in the decline of coal used to produce energy when the UK saw its first 24-hour period of coal-free power (in modern times at least).
What fuel was used instead?
As you’d expect, with much of the British Isles bathed in early summer sunshine, solar power accounted for a fair bit of this, with nearly a quarter of the power being consumed by us Brits coming from the sun during this coal-free period. This was accompanied by a similar amount of energy coming from wind farms and nuclear power plants, whereas gas usage was slightly higher at nearly a third. The final piece in the energy supply jigsaw came from biofuel that was burned at a power station in Yorkshire.
Only last week, we saw the latest record of a 55-hour stint of a coalless UK, but this was beaten by an unrivalled period of 76 hours only this week (the run came to an end on Tuesday 24th April 2018 at 1 pm). For all you geeks out there, you can track current and future coal usage on the MygridGB website, which has an up to date chart of coal usage.
Wind, solar and Gas
Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen substantial investment in wind and solar farms and this is likely to continue. It needs to if the October 2025 target of a coal-free UK is to be achieved. There are already plans to close 2 of the 8 remaining coal-fired power stations this year and it’s hoped that the remaining 6 will all close (or be adapted for new use) well before the 2025 deadline.
Due to the now well known ‘carbon tax’ hitting the coal industry hard, alternatives such a wind and solar power are proving more of an attractive option for big investors. Of course, whilst gas energy is far from being pollution free, it’s still far cheaper than coal when it comes to heating our homes. The only problem with this is that the UK relies heavily on imported gas supplies from other countries, leaving us at the mercy of fluctuating global energy prices.
You don’t need to be a brainiac to figure out that with the limited amount of sunshine we get in the UK, solar power is far from being the perfect solution to our energy-hungry demands. With the sun having far less strength in the winter months, it’s doubtful that it will ever be the one and only silver bullet for renewable energy. Having said that, when you combine this with wind farms, and the relentless march of technological advancements, it’s a little easier to see a renewable energy existence in years to come. This will also hopefully lead to an eventual decline in using nuclear power to generate electricity and who knows, perhaps even an end to our dependence on oil in the future.