UK's end to coal power brought forward to 2024

2nd July 2021

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The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

Coal use has fallen drastically in recent years, accounting for 1.8% of the UK’s electricity mix in 2020, compared with 40% almost a decade ago.

The country went 5,000 hours without coal-fired electricity in 2020, and 43.1% of its electricity was instead generated from renewable sources over the course of the year.

The move to end the use of unabated coal – which is coal without any technologies to substantially reduce its CO2 emissions – only applies to electricity generation, and not for activities such as steel-making, which is planned at the controversial Cumbria coal mine.

Following the announcement, COP26 president-designate, Alok Sharma, urged other nations to follow the UK's example and abandon coal power for good.

“The next decade will be make, or break, for our planet and the most powerful way we can make a difference is to end our reliance on coal,” he said.

“Ahead of COP26, I hope the UK’s decisive step towards a cleaner, greener future sends a clear signal to friends around the world that clean power is the way forward.

“The impact of this step will be far greater if we can bring the world with us, and so our desire to support a clean and just energy transition is central to my discussions on the road to COP26.”

Coal is the single biggest contributor to anthropogenic climate change, and responsible for around 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, along with 72% of total greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector.

For the first time ever, in March this year coal-fired power plants did not participate in the UK's four-year ahead capacity market auction, which secures the electricity needed to cope with peaks in demand in 2024 to 2025.

Going forward, coal power plants will not be able participate in any future capacity market auctions due to the introduction of emissions limits.

While welcoming the news that the UK will end the use of coal one year early, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Tony Bosworth, highlighted how coal power was “already fading into the history books”.

“Coal provided just 1.5% of UK electricity in the final quarter of 2020, the lowest level on record, and by the end of next year, there will be just one coal-fired power station still in operation,” he continued.

“But ministerial boasts about taking radical action to completely eliminate this dirty fuel ring hollow while this government is still sitting on the fence about a new coal mine in Cumbria.”

Image credit: iStock

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