BY MICHAEL HOLDER
Britain has now gone more than 10 days straight without generating any of its electricity from coal, smashing the previous record set just weeks ago.
National Grid confirmed this morning the UK - not including Northern Ireland - is closing in on 260 continuous hours without coal-fired power generation, prompting speculation that should favourable weather conditions continue the coal-free period could last until the end of the month.
For the last 10 days England, Scotland and Wales have managed without coal, with wind, solar, biomass and nuclear, alongside electricity from European interconnectors, supplying the bulk of Britain's power.
The latest milestone far surpasses the previous record set on May 8, when the UK clocked up an entire coal-free week for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. Speaking at the time, Fintan Slye, director of National Grid Electricity Systems Operator, predicted coal-free periods would soon be "the new normal" and the UK would be able to operate a zero carbon electricity system by 2025, when the government has said it wants to end unabated coal generation altogether.
A spell of bright, blustery days has raised generation levels for wind and solar power. This, combined with low levels of demand for power has meant the grid has also been running with low levels of gas-fired power generation in recent days.
All told, domestic fossil fuels contributed as little as 15 per cent of the electricity share on Sunday, according to energy analyst Thomas Edwards.
Wow, you know we were crowing about no-coal? down to less than 3GW of gas..
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said that, weather depending, a month-long coal-free record could well be seen this summer.
"If you can do it for 10 days then you can do the same for longer," he told BusinessGreen. "If there's no mass outings [of power plants], there's really no reason why you couldn't go a month."
The record is part of a global trend that has seen a host of countries sign up to the international Powering Past Coal Alliance and project pipelines for new coal plants contract as competition from gas and renewables has intensified.
Earlier this month UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged countries around the world to build no new coal power plants from 2020 and to put a price on carbon emissions, warning that if dramatic action is not taken to limit global temperature rises to below 2C there will be "total disaster".
The weakening investment outlook for coal has also been noted by leading financial firms, with a growing number of companies limiting their exposure to coal assets or divesting from coal firms altogether. However, major economies such as China and India still have significant pipelines for new coal power plants, while in Australia the pro-coal Liberal Party was recently elected for another term in government as debate rages over plans for the controversial Carmichael coal mine project.