Two records broken to help cut our carbon footprint
There was good news on the environment as two new records were broken in April 2020. Firstly, the UK went the longest time without burning any coal in this country to generate electricity, and secondly the production of solar power hit a new high.
“These figures are very welcome,” said Midlands green energy expert Ron Fox, “as the lockdown with everyone staying in might have led to an increase in demand for central heating and power, but this was offset partly by a fall in industrial demand.
“Also, the recent frequent sunny and windy spells led to an increase in solar power which meant that coal-fired power stations were not needed to top up the supply to the National Grid,” added Ron, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park.
The previous longest period without coal supplying the grid since it was established in 1882 at Holborn Viaduct in London was June 2019 with 18 days, 6 hours and 10 minutes.
But that was beaten at 6.10am on Tuesday, April 28 and ESO, the National Grid Electricity System Operator for England, Scotland and Wales, said it did not expect to use any coal until the first Tuesday in May at the earliest.
At the end of last month solar panels contributed a record 11.12 per cent to the total of the total power generated.
According to the energy and climate website Carbon Brief, renewables which include wind farm and biomass as well as solar, have been the largest source of electricity producing 37 per cent of power during this coal-free period.
A total of 32 per cent came from gas, 22 per cent from nuclear and 9 per cent was imported from Europe, though a small per cent from the continent may have included some electricity generated by coal.
“To show how the energy market has changed,” added Ron, “eight years ago in 2012 43 per cent of UK power came from coal and just seven per cent from renewables.”
Demand for power last month was down around 18 per cent compared to April 2019, but carbon dioxide emissions from the UK generating electricity fell by 34 per cent over the same period and by 51 per cent on the five-year average, said Carbon Brief.
With two coal-fired power stations closing at the end of March – Aberthraw B in south Wales and Fiddler’s Ferry in Cheshire there are now only three plants operating in England – Drax in North Yorkshire, Ratcliffe in Nottingham shire and West Burton in Lincolnshire – and one in Northern Ireland in Kilroot.
The government has now brought forward by a year the deadline for phasing out coal from the electricity system to October 1, 2024.
“Perhaps the green message is at last getting through to everyone,” added Ron, “and that a reduction in burning coal cuts the carbon dioxide emitted which in turn helps beat climate change.”