One of our most-read stories recently has been about the UK’s incredible ‘coal-free’ generation period. Ultimately, the UK produced sufficient energy from renewable energy, gas and electricity imports to be considered ‘coal-free’ for 18 days.
A tweet from National Grid electricity system operator (NGESO) on 4 June reported that:
“Great Britain has now gone over 18 days (432 hours) without coal! Due to plant availability and system requirements, our current coal run has come to an end at 9:20 p.m. this evening. 18 days and 60 hours.”
Yet, is this the full story?
Great Britain has now gone over 18 days (432 hours) without coal!— National Grid ESO (@ng_eso) June 4, 2019
According to reports from our sister publication Power Engineering International, this may not be the complete picture.
The UK government has announced plans to phase out coal-fired plants by 2025 to reduce carbon emissions. According to Fintan Slye director of the NGESO there is “still a lot of work to do.”
He continued, however, that: “As more and more renewables come onto the system, we’re seeing things progress at an astonishing rate.”
Interestingly, the coal-free days were supported by power imported from, among other, the Netherlands – almost all of it generated by coal.
Modelling carried out by energy market data analyst EnAppSys indicates that power generated from coal has been imported from other regions over the same period.
EnAppSys believes that high carbon taxes in Britain were the key reason the UK’s electricity system could run without coal for the two week period. And the company believes however that further no-coal records could be broken should these taxes remain at current levels.
However, Britain imported 50.9 GWh of power from coal-fired plants operating in regions where the carbon taxes are not as high. The largest share of the modelled total was from the Netherlands, where coal-fired power stations continue to operate at a high level of activity, yet pay around half the carbon taxes paid within the UK.
The question I am asking today is this: If you are importing coal-fired power from other countries – are you still coal-free?