Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight on Policy
17 August 2018updated 16 Sep 2021 4:52pm

Coal supplied just one per cent of Britain’s electricity this summer

The UK ran without coal power for 33 days over the second quarter of 2018.

Coal supplied just 1.3 per cent of Britain’s electricity over the last three months and for 12 days in June the furnaces in coal-fired power stations across the country were entirely unused, according to a new Imperial College report commissioned by Drax, further progressing the UK’s programme to remove the fossil fuel from its energy mix.

During the last three months, the UK went coal-free for 812 hours – more than the whole of 2016 and 2017 combined. The report claims that coal power was not necessary for producing energy over these months; instead coal power stations were only fired up to keep the system stable.

Coal was only needed for inertia and voltage control, which helps to regulate the output of electricity. This led the report to conclude that the impact of coal-powered electricity on the UK’s carbon footprint in summer months “is no longer significant”, with less than 1m tonnes of CO2 produced by coal-fired power plants in the last quarter. The transport sector produced over 120m tonnes of CO2 in 2017.

Over the last five years, the UK has cut its coal-fired electricity production by four fifths. British energy companies must continue this trend in order to meet the government’s target to phase out the use of coal by 2025.

Drax, which runs one of the eight remaining coal-fired power stations, is in the process of converting one of its units to biomass and has filed a planning application to switch the remaining two to gas. The company informed Spotlight that this could see them eradicate the use of coal power by 2023. Two more coal power stations, in Eggborough and Kilroot, are set to close by the end of the year.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday - from the New Statesman. Sign up directly at The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. Sign up directly at Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

The summer heatwave saw the production from solar power soar to a new record, producing 9.39 gigawatts in a single day on 27 June. Solar power made up 6.6 per cent of the UK’s energy mix and now has the capacity to generate more electricity than coal.

Despite the major improvements shown in the report, gas still makes up the majority of the UK’s electricity supply. Gas power produced 41.1 per cent of the country’s power over the last quarter and was responsible for 82 per cent of its emissions. With the “easiest option” of removing coal almost achieved, the report warns that the UK may be entering an “era of slow progress” in reducing carbon emissions further.

Content from our partners
Strengthening the UK's clinical trial ecosystem
Ageing well with technology
"Homesharing helps us get a better work-life balance"

Topics in this article :