Market Insights

UK’s day without coal is a moment in history

UK, coal, global energy, gas, power, electricity, carbon, National Grid

The National Grid announced the United Kingdom’s bold step to generate power without burning coal, for an entire day. This is the first time the country will aim to generate power without coal, since 1882. The move is expected to become a stepping stone for future advancements in the utility sector.

A spokesperson from the UK National Grid said, “A combination of factors including warm weather, which led consumers to reduce their energy use, made it possible.” According to Grid Watch, half of the energy for the day was sourced from fossil fuels and nearly a quarter from natural gas. The remaining was sourced from a mix of wind and biomass, while some amount of energy was imported. The Guardian stated that the UK generated more electricity from wind than from coal in 2016.

Professor David Elmes, head of the Warwick Business School Global Energy Research Network said, “Using less coal is not just about changing the fuel used in power stations. It’s a shift in the way we generate, store and use energy – from big centralised solutions such as large power stations and the national network of pylons and cables that are used to move electricity around.” He added that there was already a preference for more “local, distributed ways” to create energy that can be used in homes, communities and in smaller industries. 

The current Government has vowed to shut down coal-fired power plants completely by 2025. Statistically, older coal power plants have ceased to function over the years. Solar and wind power are gradually evolving, by generating electricity for homes and industrial purposes.

In an essay on Energy Digital, Michael Bradshaw, professor of Global Energy and researcher in the UK coal and gas industry said, “What will replace coal in the power generation mix? The Government talks of the need for ‘new’ gas power generation and is concerned that the current capacity mechanism is not incentivising sufficient investment.

The reason is that there’s considerable uncertainty over the future role of gas in UK’s power generation plan.When natural gas is a fossil fuel, but when burned to generate electricity, it produces about half the amount of carbon dioxide that would be emitted from coal. With coal gone from the power generation mix by 2025 at the latest, gas becomes the high-carbon fuel in the mix.” 

However, there are opportunities and challenges in equal measure. If UK leverages opportunities, there is a future to look forward to.

MI Newsdesk

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