Britain ‘on track’ for coal-free summers

Drax Power Station, near Selby Picture by Simon Hulme
Drax Power Station, near Selby Picture by Simon Hulme
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The level of fossil fuel used to provide Britain’s electricity dipped below one per cent this summer, prompting a Yorkshire power station to say that the UK could be on track for coal free summers.

A report from researchers at Imperial College in London showed that between April and June of this year there were as many coal-free hours as in the whole of 2016 and 2017 combined.

For a total of 12 days in June in particular, during which time the country experienced extremely hot and dry weather, the share of fossil fuel used to produce power was zero.

Drax, which is phasing out coal from its power plant in North Yorkshire in favour of wood-pellet fired generators, said when coal was running over the period, it was to primarily provide system balancing services overnight rather than baseload electricity.

Great Britain has managed to reduce its coal-fired power generation by 80 per cent over the last five years, with renewable power taking its place.

In the past 30 years Europe’s coal generation dropped from 39 per cent to 22 per cent. In America the figures for the same period are 57 per cent to 31 per cent, figures that may change since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on a promise to restore coal mining.

However Drax said that the fall off in the use of coal would not necessarily mean a reduction in greenhouse gases.

Renewable energy projects have plateaued in recent years and demand for electricity, particularly in Asia. China, South Korea and Indonesia, is increasing, with these nations collectively burning 10 times more coal than they did 30 years ago.

It said enhanced nuclear capacity is likely to be required while policy support for renewable schemes such as offshore wind turbines and rooftop solar panels was described as “hazy”.