Britain sets new record of coal-free power generation

The UK’s biggest power plant Drax was the country’s biggest consumer of coal a decade ago but has been switching to compressed wood pellets. (PA)
The UK’s biggest power plant Drax was the country’s biggest consumer of coal a decade ago but has been switching to compressed wood pellets. (PA)

At midnight on Wednesday Britain will set a new record of coal-free power generation as it marks two months without burning coal to power the nation.

The current coal-free period far surpasses the previous record of 18 days, 6 hours and 10 minutes which was set in June last year.

The move away from coal in the past two months was triggered by the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic in Britain as demand for electricity plunged significantly prompting the National Grid (NG.L) to take power plants off the network.

Britain’s four remaining coal-fired plants were among the first to be shut down.

The figures apply to Britain only, as Northern Ireland does not receive power from the National Grid.

A decade ago about 40% of the country's electricity came from coal, while just 3% of the country's electricity came from wind and solar power.

Over the past 10 years the UK has created the biggest offshore wind industry in the world, as well as the largest single wind farm, Walney Extension, completed off the coast of Yorkshire in 2019.

READ MORE: BP to cut 10,000 jobs following global slump in oil demand

The UK’s biggest power plant Drax (DRX.L) was the country’s biggest consumer of coal a decade ago but has been switching to compressed wood pellets.

“We here at Drax decided that coal was no longer the future,” Drax chief executive Will Gardiner told the BBC.

“It has been a massive undertaking and then the result of all that is we've reduced our CO2 emissions from more than 20 million tonnes a year to almost zero.”

Drax Group’s shares were down 3.7% in mid-afternoon trading in London on Tuesday.

So far in 2020, renewables have generated more power than all fossil fuels put together, with renewables creating 37% of electricity supplied to the network compared to 35% for fossil fuels.

Nuclear accounted for about 18% and imports for the remaining 10% or so, according to figures from the online environmental journal Carbon Brief.

“So far this year renewables have generated more electricity than fossil fuels and that's never happened before,” Simon Evans of Carbon Brief told the BBC.

“With gas also in decline, there's a real chance that renewables will overtake fossil fuels in 2020 as a whole.”

Drax Group share price (Yahoo Finance UK)
Drax Group share price (Yahoo Finance UK)