UK sets new record – 16 days coal-free and counting


For the first time in over 130 years, the UK has been powered without the use of coal for a full 16 days.

The country reached the milestone on 3:12pm on the 31st of May, and the run continued past the 16 day mark at the same time on the 3rd of June.

On May 31, National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) tweeted:

Coal was last used on the 17th of May, and as at the 16-day-mark, stood at 384 hours, surpassing the previous 193 hour record set in May 2019.

The country’s first coal-free day was in April 2017.

The total number of coal-free hours for the UK in May 2019 was 679, surpassing the total record for the 2017 year.

 “Coal was the backbone of the last industrial revolution – but this old technology is being beaten by wind energy, the powerhouse of our 21st century economy. Renewables are providing well over a third of our electricity today, and this is just the beginning,” said trade body RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Emma Pinchbeck.

Here’s how Britain’s electricity supply mix has looked over the period:

  • Gas: 39%
  • Coal: 0%
  • Nuclear: 20%
  • Wind: 13.5%
  • Storage: 0.4%
  • Hydro: 0.6%
  • Solar Power: 7.1%
  • Interconnector (imports): 11.8%1
  • Biomass: 7.6%

Fintan Slye, ESO Director said: “As more and more renewables come onto the system, we’re seeing things progress at an astonishing rate. We also broke our solar record for GB this month – with one day seeing over a quarter of the country powered by the sun. Our stats also tell us that decarbonisation levels have decreased by over 50% between 2013-2018; 2018 was our greenest year to date and so far, 2019 looks like it has the potential to beat it.

“We’ve been planning for reduced running of coal plant for many years, as well as managing increasing levels of renewables. This means that network investments have been made and grid operator services have been procured such that we can operate a network with no coal plant.

“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’. As we move towards 2025, we believe that we will be able to operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon generation.”