Monday 27 May 2019 3:25 pm

Britain smashes coal-free power record with 10-day run

Britain smashed its record for coal-free power generation over the weekend, punching through ten days without burning the fuel for the first time since 1882 this afternoon.

Coal-fired power stations have laid dormant since the afternoon of 17 May, as wind, solar, nuclear and gas generation prop up the grid.

Read more: Britain goes a week without burning coal

It smashes through a previous record of eight days and one hour set earlier this month around another bank holiday weekend.

British coal has faced a steep decline since 1990 when it accounted for around two thirds of the UK’s electricity generation.

The decline in coal has helped the country slash greenhouse gas emissions by 44 per cent over the period, reaching 449m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent last year.

However, critics point out that the change has meant Britain now leans heavily on natural gas as the biggest generator of electricity.

Although cleaner than coal, this reliance on gas will present a new challenge when power generators have switched off coal for good.

Renewables have stepped in to fill part of the gap caused by the retreat of coal. Solar generation was supplying around 18 per cent of Britain’s power needs on Monday afternoon, with wind accounting for approximately 10 per cent, according to Grid Watch.

The grid has also been boosted by the laying of cables to Europe, meaning French, Dutch, Belgian and Irish power generation supplied around 12 per cent of Britain’s needs this afternoon.

The result means that so far in May, British power stations have only been switched on during three days.

Read more: UK emissions fall for the sixth year running

On 9 May, the country reached a then-record 193 hours without burning coal, before the next day starting a new coal-free run which lasted for 133 hours. The new record reached 240 hours this afternoon at just after 3pm today.

The data does not include Northern Ireland, which shares its electricity generation network with the Republic of Ireland. Coal is still used for other purposes, including steel production.