United Kingdom set for first full day without coal power

Britain's National Grid says Friday may be the first full 24-hour work-day since the Industrial Revolution in which the nation doesn't depend on electricity generated from coal

Britain is set for its first day without electricity generation from coal-fired power stations since the country's industrial revolution in the 19th century, power grid operator National Grid said on Friday.

Reuters adds that past year, natural gas accounted for 42 percent of the country's electricity, with renewable and nuclear energy making up 45. This is part of the UK's commitment to phasing out the heavily polluting fossil fuel as part of its initiative to meet its climate targets, which now are to cut carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.

If Britain goes coal-less Friday, it will be the first time since the world's first centralized public coal-fired generator opened at London's Holborn Viaduct in 1882.

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said the first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution "would mark a watershed in the energy transition".

Now let's see if we can keep it at zero.

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"The first country to use coal for electricity is now on the cusp of being the first major economy to completely phase it out", said Ben Caldecott from the University of Oxford.

Fiddlers Ferry coal fired power station near Liverpool.

"The government talks of the need for "new" gas power generation and is concerned that the current capacity mechanism is not incentivising sufficient investment". In 2015 power generation accounted for 22.2 per cent of United Kingdom gas demand, the household sector 30.2 per cent and industry 20.2 per cent. A study by UKERC on the future role of natural gas in the United Kingdom highlights the complexities surrounding the role of gas in the ongoing low carbon transition.

As the most polluting fossil fuel, coal has seen a significant decline in recent years, accounting for just 9% of electricity production in 2016 and down from around 23% the year before, as coal plants close or switch to burning biomass such as wood pellets. While natural gas is cleaner than coal, it is still a fossil fuel.

Bradshaw believes that there are two possible paths if natural gas is to remain part of the solution, rather than the next problem. "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", he says.