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Coal-free month record for the UK

Published May 27, 2020

Coal-free month record for the UK

On May 10th, the UK recorded its first coal-free month in what is the nation’s longest stretch ever recorded. 

While much of this reduction can be attributed to the coronavirus lockdown and reduced demand from industries and businesses, weather has also played a part, enabling wind and solar to provide a large chunk of the energy supply, bolstered by nuclear and gas. 

Energy demand overall has fallen by 15% for the month of April due to coronavirus lockdowns, but the nation has been following a coal-free trajectory for a few years now. 

The first time the UK hit a coal-free milestone was in April of 2017, when it had its first coal-free day since the 1880s, which was preceded by a 19-hour coal-free period the year prior. 

The next milestone was achieved in early May of 2019, with the first coal-free week since the 1800s, quickly followed by another record of two weeks only weeks later. 

The government has pledged to close all coal-fired power plants by 2025, and plants have slowly been shutting down across the UK, with two closing on the same day on 31 March 2020 (Fiddler’s Ferry, which was SSE’s last coal-fired power station; and RWE’s Aberthaw Power Station in Wales). As devastating as the coronavirus pandemic has been in many other ways, it may just be the catalyst to push the UK into a coal-free future sooner. 

As restrictions start to lift, demand for energy will increase, and only time will tell if we will hit another target. Given that the nation has set its sights on the 2050 Net Zero target and many measures are being put in place to reach said target, we could possibly be on the way to phasing coal out sooner than expected.