Back in April, we published a story detailing how the UK had gone 18 days without using coal energy. Now we’re in June—and guess what? That coal-free streak is still going.
Midnight on Wednesday marked two full months without burning coal to generate power, an incredible streak for a country that sourced about 40 percent of its energy from coal just a decade ago. A collapse in energy demand because of the coronavirus lockdown and the sunniest May on record has enabled the country to increase its reliance on solar power and other renewable energy sources such as wind. On top of that, low power prices caused by reduced industrial demand has made it increasingly unprofitable to run coal-fired power stations.
Still, while coronavirus plays a part in all this, it’s not the only contributor. The UK currently has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world, as well as the largest single wind farm, completed off the coast of Yorkshire last year. At the same time Drax, the country’s biggest power plant, has been taking a different path to renewable energy. A decade ago, it was the biggest consumer of coal in the UK but has been switching to compressed wood pellets. He says the plant now uses seven million tonnes of pellets sourced from commercial forests in the US each year and says Drax will phase out coal entirely by March next year.
And it is not just coal that is being eclipsed by renewables. So far this year, renewables have generated more power than all fossil fuels put together. Breaking it down, renewables were responsible for 37 percent of the electricity supplied to the network versus 35 percent for fossil fuels.
As a publication that has been covering the rise of renewables for years, these statistics are candy to the eye.