Friday is expected to see the United Kingdom’s first full day without electricity generated from coal since the Industrial Revolution kicked off in the 19th century. The record is a landmark moment in the nation's shift away from fossil fuel and its pursuit of cleaner sources of energy in order to hit its ambitious climate change targets.
While electricity generated by coal has dipped to zero before in the UK, this will mark the first time that the nation that pioneered the use of coal during the Industrial Revolution will have gone 24 hours without burning it at all. Previously, the record was 19 hours over a weekend last May, and replicated again this Thursday.
This latest news in fairly consistent with what has been going on in the energy sector in the UK over recent years. Last year, three of the country’s coal power plants closed or were converted to wood chip burning, while the remaining six are scheduled to shut up shop by 2025. Over the last few years, the amount of electricity generated by coal has been dropping dramatically.
While coal accounted for 21 percent of electricity generation in 2014, last year this slid to just 9 percent, and even saw solar overtake it for the first time ever. This is part of the UK’s commitment to phasing out the heavily polluting fossil fuel as part of its initiative to meet its climate targets, which currently are to cut carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.
“The first country to use coal for electricity is now on the cusp of being the first major economy to completely phase it out,” said Ben Caldecott from the University of Oxford.