On Wednesday, Britain will have completed a full two months without burning coal to generate electricity as the country embraces renewable energy.
The coronavirus has played its part in bringing down fossil fuel consumption. But its not the only factor in a country which is rapidly migrating towards sustainable energy sources.
Just a decade ago, roughly 40% of Britain’s power was generated by coal.
But a massive investment in renewable energy since then meant that when Britain went into coronavirus lockdown and electricity demand plummeted, only four coal-fired plants had been remaining.
Those have since been shut down, the last one switched off at midnight on April 9. The two-month period zero coal use beats Britain’s previous margin of 18 days by some way.
It should be noted the above stats do not apply to Northern Ireland, which uses an independent power grid.
Less coal, more renewables
Prices to produce electricity from wind and sun have dropped substantially in the last 10 years.
In 2010, Britain only derived 3% of its electricity came from wind and solar. But today it has the world’s biggest offshore wind industry and that number has climbed to 33%.
The planet’s largest single wind farm also exists in England.
Known as Hornsea One, it’s located 120km off the coast of Yorkshire and is expected to power at least a million homes after completion this year.
Dogger Bank Wind Farm, set for completion in around 2022, is planned to be three times bigger than Hornsea One, with a capacity of 3.6 gigawatts.
Another example of Britain’s changing approach towards energy production can be seen at Drax, the country’s biggest power plant.
Previously the biggest consumer of coal in the UK, Drax has switched to compressed wood pellets.
“It has been a massive undertaking and then the result of all that is we’ve reduced our CO2 emissions from more than 20 million tonnes a year to almost zero,” said CEO Will Gardiner.
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