For the third time in just under a year, the UK has broken its record for consecutive days of coal-free power generation.
In May 2019, the UK went a fortnight without coal-fired power for the first time since the pre-industrial period, but the continued drive towards net-zero future and the rise in green energy output meant this barely lasted a month.
That record of 18 consecutive days, six hours and 12 minutes stood for seven months but was beaten today.
Currently, the UK’s energy system has not used coal for power generation for more than 440 hours, accounting for less than 1% of electricity generation in the UK.
Unseasonably warm weather and the coronavirus pandemic have both contributed to the new milestone.
Last Monday (20 April), solar energy accounted for 30% of all electricity generated, while the global lockdown has forced down demand due to a significant slowdown in production.
Sunnier times ahead?
“Solar is playing a critical role in delivering a fossil-free grid and cleaner, cheaper power to Britain. As we look towards a net-zero future, solar will become an increasingly greater part of the energy mix, tackling high power prices, climate change, and biodiversity loss,” said Solar Trade Association 9STA) CEO Chris Hewett.
“With the Government beginning to consider how best to kick-start the economy following the Covid-19 crisis, it has a golden opportunity to place renewables at the heart of its recovery package. Solar, in particular, can provide a glut of quality green jobs and growth at short notice, with your average solar park able to be built in less than six months, and home installation in less than a day. The industry is ready to help drive the revival.”
The public appetite for change
The dramatic slump in oil prices is another factor that could accelerate the U.K’s net-zero push by promoting green energy sources, according to Dr Jonathan Marshall, Head of Analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.
Although previous falls in fossil fuel prices have been seen to have an adverse effect on investment in renewable energy, Marshall argues that the public mood has changed and that the reverse could now be the case.
Marshall believes that an over-dependence on imported fuel, estimated to be heading towards 65% of the market share by 2035, combined with highly volatile energy prices are shaping a new way of thinking amongst an increasingly politicised public.
In so many areas of life what was once seen as normal is now being re-evaluated, and power generation is no different, he says.
“Putting a rocket under the UK’s low carbon transition, as well as pulling the plug on industries that have been on life support for years, could be one of the ways of giving the public what it wants,” claimed Dr Marshall.