UK celebrates first coal-free fortnight for electricity grid

31st May 2019 | Commercial Energy

The UK’s electricity grid will have operated without coal-fired power for a fortnight at 3.12 pm on 31 May, marking a first since pre-industrial times. The operating firm for National Grid, National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), confirmed the milestone this morning, claiming that coal-free generation is set to become “the new normal” over the next five years.

According to National Grid EDO, the UK’s previous coal-free record period, achieved on 9 May, lasted for 193 hours and 25 minutes. By contrast, the nation’s new coal-free sting will have been going on for 336 hours and counting by 3.12pm.


In total, May has seen the UK’s power grid undergo three 100+ hour coal-free runs, from 1 May – 9 May: 9 May – 15 May and the current stint which began on 17 May. National Grid ESO claims there have been more hours of zero-coal generation in May than in the months of January, February and March combined. It is worth noting, however, that are seasonal factors at play, given that the UK has long performed temporary shutdowns of coal plants during lower demand periods in spring.

“As we predicted when we first broke the record for a week of no coal generation at the start of the month, events such as today’s will become the ‘new normal’,” National Grid ECO’s director Fintan Slye said. “There is still a lot of work to do, but operating a zero-carbon electricity system in 2025, whenever there is sufficient renewable generation, is a major stepping stone to full decarbonisation of the entire electricity system. This will enable new technologies and removes barriers to ever-increasing levels of renewables.”

National Grid ESO first announced plans to run a zero-carbon network for the UK by 025 – excluding Northern Ireland in April. The firm says it has been planning for the decline of coal-fired electricity and the increase of renewable energy “for many years”.

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