Figures from the National Grid ESO show the UK grid’s carbon intensity is already higher for 2021 than in 2020.
2020 saw the UK on track to meet its targets to cease burning coal for power generation by 2025. However, as the UK Government announced plans to bring this deadline forward to October 2024, Britain’s energy grid has been heading in the wrong direction, relying on coal to top up its electricity supply for 34 days in a row between June and July.
The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) reported that Britain burned coal for the same number of days between 25th June to 28th July as it did between April 10th and October 26th last year.
The massive increase in burning coal and other carbon-emitting sources to fuel the grid has been triggered by environmental factors, such as reduced wind strength and above-average temperatures which have led to low renewable generation. Since there is not enough low carbon nuclear power to rely on when renewable energy supplies drop, coal has already been burned for 150 days this year, compared to 93 days by this time last year, marking the first year-on-year increase since 2012.
This is a concern for the NIA, with Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive, cautioning that such an increase will create more greenhouse gas emissions and higher energy prices. According to Greatrex, if we continue as we are, the only way Britain will be able to phase out coal by October 2024, will be to burn more gas, increasing dependence on fossil fuels and locking in carbon emissions and higher prices. Instead, he says we must turn to nuclear power.
Mr Greatrex claimed: “Britain is caught in a fossil fuel trap and the only way to escape is to build new nuclear power stations alongside renewable capacity”.
“Our path to net zero starts with replacing the existing nuclear fleet and investing in a strong and balanced zero carbon mix.”
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