Just over a week ago, the United Kingdom set a new record: almost 55 hours without using coal. It didn’t take long to shatter that record. CleanTechnica reported the country just went 76 hours without the polluting fuel. According to the National Grid Twitter account, it’s “the first time since the 1880s” that the feat has been achieved.
For the first time since the 1880s the UK electricity network has clocked up over 72 hours without the need for coal generation. This new record comes days after the first ever 48 hour period of no coal on the network.
— National Grid Media (@Grid_Media) April 24, 2018
The country started their coal-free streak on Saturday, April 21, and went into Tuesday, April 24, ultimately going for 76 hours and 10 minutes, according to the UK Coal Twitter account. This may not be the last record the United Kingdom sets this year; Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit analyst Jonathan Marshall told The Guardian, “Ever rising renewable capacity in the UK will see these records fall more and more frequently, clearly showing progress made over the past decade or two.”
The final length of this record #coal free run was 76 Hours 10 minutes.
Coal units are now back generating. pic.twitter.com/OauJREXzxN
— UK Coal (@UK_Coal) April 24, 2018
What did the UK run on in the absence of coal? The Guardian put out a graphic showing the electricity mix from April 21 at 10 AM to April 24 at 10 AM; during that time 30.3 percent of power came from gas, 24.9 percent from wind, 23.3 percent from nuclear, 15.3 percent from biomass or other sources, and 6.2 percent from solar.
Electrical engineer Andrew Crossland, who operates MyGridGB, cautioned against replacing coal with gas, telling The Guardian, “Shifting to gas is likely to make our electricity market more volatile as our energy price becomes increasingly locked to international gas markets. That will only hurt consumers.”
More coal stations are shuttering — two plant owners in the country have said they’ll close this year, according to The Guardian. What will happen to those brownfield sites? The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit explored that question in a recent blog post from Marshall, who said one old power station could be transformed into a cruise ship terminal, another into housing, and others as logistics centers.
At the time of writing, the UK was on another streak and had already gone 39 continuous hours without coal — could another record be over the horizon?