Keep Calm and Power On (without Coal)
Earlier this year Great Britain set a national record for going 75 hours – more than three full days and nights – without generating any electricity from coal. That feat followed a similar record in 2017 when the country went a full day without coal-generated electricity for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.
This is beyond significant. The country that has been mining coal for 140 years – and even traces its Labour Party to a coal-mining union in the 1880s – proved it doesn’t have to be dependent on fossil fuels as a long-term energy solution.
Coal from either underground mines or open pits powered most of Britain’s home heating and cooking, and later its electricity, before many of the mines were closed in the 1960s. Nowadays, coal has a backup role in the UK’s National Grid as the remaining coal plants are the first to be powered down and the last to come back on line.
To be fair, the no-coal three days were not entirely free of carbon-based fuels. A little more than 30 percent of the electricity used was generated by natural gas, and 23 percent was nuclear. But the remaining half came from renewable sources including wind, biomass and solar. In fact, Great Britain has more offshore wind turbines than any other country with significant coastline.
Great Britain has a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. This involves shuttering all remaining coal plants in just seven years – a goal that appears reachable given that just 5.3 percent of all primary energy consumed in the UK comes from coal, a drop from 22 percent in 1995.
As a company passionate about a carbonless future, whether through solar or other technically advanced means, CSDR salutes the British for proving that habits and conventions can and do change. Power on indeed.