Britain generates a day's electricity without coal for the first time since 1882
For the first time since 1882, the UK generated all of its power without the aid of coal last Friday (21st of April).
The share of electricity generated by coal power plants hit zero on Thursday night, and remained that way for a full 25 hours. This made it the first working day where no energy was provided by fossil fuel since Britain’s first ever steam-driven power station opened.
Professor David Elmes, Head of the Warwick Business School Global Energy Research Network, offered the following expert comment:
"Coal has been a vital part of the UK over my lifetime, and due recognition to the people who made that happen, but this is an exciting step in the huge transition the UK is making to an electricity system that’s still affordable and reliable but more sustainable through using gas rather than coal.
“There are still challenges and opportunities ahead. Using less coal is not just about changing the fuel used in power stations, it’s a shift in the way we generate, store and use energy from big centralised solutions like large power stations and the national network of pylons and cables we use to move electricity around. We already see a move to more local, distributed ways that energy is made and used, in our homes, communities and in industry.”
Michael Bradshaw, Professor of Global Energy, also researches the UK gas and coal industry. He co-authored a report for UKERC entitled The Future Role of Natural Gas in the UK.
Bradshaw said: "The current Government is amid a consultation about its intention to remove coal completely by 2025; but it seems that it may well be gone before then. However, this begs the question what will replace that coal in the power generation mix? The Government talks of the need for ‘new’ gas power generation and is concerned that the current capacity mechanism is not incentivising sufficient investment.
"The reason for this is that there is considerable uncertainty over the future role of gas in UK power generation. In 2015 power generation accounted for 22.2 percent of UK gas demand, the household sector 30.2 percent and industry 20.2 percent. A study by UKERC on the future role of natural gas in the UK highlights the complexities surrounding the role of gas in the ongoing low carbon transition.
"Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but when burned to generate electricity it produces about half the amount of carbon dioxide that would be emitted from coal. However, the future trajectory of the UK’s energy mix is constrained by the Climate Change Act (2008) and its commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent over 1990 levels by 2050. This requires the almost total decarbonisation of the energy system. With coal gone from the power generation mix by 2025 at the latest, gas becomes the high-carbon fuel in the mix.
"There are two possible paths if natural gas is to remain part of the solution, rather than the next problem. The first would be to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to significantly reduce the emissions of gas power generation. But the Government cancelled its support CCS back in November 2015, for ‘purely fiscal reasons.’ Hopefully, support for CCS will form part of the new Industrial Strategy.
"The second path is to ‘decarbonise’ natural gas itself, but using methane to produce hydrogen requires CCS and the other options - biogas and biomethane - are unlikely to provide a large-scale solution."
Read the April 2017 edition of Energy Digital magazine
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.