At midnight on Wednesday 10th June 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK quietly but significantly passed a huge landmark. It went two full months without burning coal to generate power.
There was a time when this would have seemed completely unfeasible. More than a century ago, in 1913, coal production in the UK peaked at 292 million tonnes. Flash forward sixty years to the 1970s and coal still accounted for over half of the UK’s energy. Even more recently, in 2010, about 40% of the country’s electricity still came from coal.
The dramatic shift away from coal in recent years is thanks, in large part, to a growing national and international awareness of climate change and the environmental impact of burning coal for energy. But other factors, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, also have a part to play.
So, is the UK looking at an energy sector without coal?
Coronavirus and coal
While two months without coal is significant, it shouldn’t be seen as a huge surprise. The summer of 2019 was also largely coal-free, with only the odd isolated day of coal use reported. Over the last eight years, coal’s energy share has fallen rapidly, with the final push to 0% being the most time-consuming part of the transition.
But there is no doubt that Coronavirus has helped to speed along this decline. While its hard to take any silver lining from the chaos inflicted by COVID-19, it has caused a huge drop in coal demand (not to mention petrol consumption). This has also been the case for other European countries. In France, coal use now rarely passes 1% of its total energy output.
Because of COVID-19, electricity demand in the UK was around 20% lower than average in recent weeks, which in turn means that the already waning demand for coal has also dropped drastically.
The move to renewables
Coal now supplies less than 5% of electricity generated in the UK, down from 40% as recently in 2012. This signals the likely success of the Government’s promise to ban all coal production in the UK in 2025.
Coal plants across the country have either been closed, or have converted to suit the greener times. One of the most significant instances occurred recently when Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire successfully converted four of its six generators to burn biomass instead. According to the Drax Group, this is Europe’s biggest decarbonisation scheme to date.
Moving to renewable energy reflects the growing awareness of the environmental impact of our energy which has occurred over the last few decades, but particularly in the last five years or so. Fuel sources like wind, wave, marine, hydro, biomass and solar are becoming more and more prominent in the UK as coal prepares to be phased out completely.
What does this mean for your energy?
Many energy providers, including the Big Six, now offer greener energy deals, and use greener sources for their energy. Some even offer perks for customers choosing greener deals as an incentive to reduce your carbon footprint.
Diversifying energy supply creates a more varied energy market, giving you the opportunity to shop around for the best deal and most suitable package.
Looking to find the cheapest traditional or green energy deal for your business? Get in touch with one of our experts today and let’s start the conversation. Give us a call on 0191 691 18 02 or click here to start comparing deals.