For the first time in nearly 150 years, Britain has gone an entire week without burning any coal. The record follows the recent news that in April, renewable electricity surpassed coal-produced electricity in the United States for the first time as well.
The last time Britain went a week without coal was in 1882, when the first coal-fired plant opened in London. Since then, coal has been burned nearly every day to produce electricity for the country. But on May 1, every coal-fired generator was shut down. None of them were restarted until this past Wednesday, marking an entire week without coal.
Instead of coal, the nation relied primarily on renewable energy along with standbys like oil, natural gas, and nuclear. Typically, coal is used to supply whatever power can’t be generated through these means, and because renewables like solar and wind can fluctuate, coal plants are often conscripted to meet goals.
On the flip side, though, when the sun is shining brightly and the wind is strong, the country can often get by with little or no coal at all. For instance, a period in 2017 saw so much renewable electricity generated that the price of electricity went negative for several hours.
As Britain builds more renewable electricity generators, coal usage has been dwindling, and this past week saw a substantial, although temporary, increase in renewable energy. Renewable electricity usually ticks upward at the beginning of spring when longer daylight hours combine with increased snowmelt running through dams.
Britain has pledged to reach zero coal production by 2025, with a completely carbon-free power grid by 2050. It’s an ambitious goal, but judging by last week’s results, it appears to be well on its way to succeeding.
The U.S., meanwhile, is much more dependent on coal than Britain, so it will be a long time before our coal production reaches zero.
Source: The Guardian
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics