Britain has had its first week (May 1 – May 8) without using electricity from burning coal since the 1880s, according to the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO).
The government plans to phase out the UK’s last coal-fired plants by 2025 to reduce carbon emissions.
National Grid ESO plans to have the systems and software in place by 2025 to be able to handle energy generated from renewables, which give a variable supply, plus nuclear energy, without coal and gas, if that mix is available from the market.
During the coal-free week, supply was maintained by burning natural gas instead, which made up 46% of the UK energy mix in that week. According to the BBC, the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is still produced when natural gas and biomass are burnt but coal plants emit almost twice as much carbon dioxide as gas-fired power plants.
Last week, government advisers the Committee on Climate Change said the UK should cut greenhouse gases to nearly zero by 2050.
This would need more renewable electricity production, an earlier phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars, and consumer changes such as turning central heating thermostats down and eating less red meat.