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Biomass helps UK have coal-free day

Cooling towers, West Burton Power Station, image courtesy of Richard Croft
Cooling towers, West Burton Power Station, image courtesy of Richard Croft

The UK ran coal free for 24 hours on Friday 21 April, the first time the country had done so on a working day since the Industrial Revolution.

According to the BBC, about 50% of British energy on 21 April came from natural gas and around 25% from nuclear power. The remaining 25% was provided by biomass, wind and imported energy.

Coal-free days are likely to become increasingly common in the future, with the UK government planning to phase out the use of the fossil fuel in order to meet climate change commitments. The country’s last coal power station will be forced to close in 2025.

West Burton 1 Power Station, which had been the only coal power station in operation, went offline on Thursday evening. Until Friday’s milestone, the longest coal free period since the advent of the fossil fuel had come in 2016, when the UK ran for 19 hours without coal use.

"Coal has been a vital part of the UK over my lifetime, and due recognition to the people who made that happen, but this is an exciting step in the huge transition the UK is making to an electricity system that’s still affordable and reliable but more sustainable through using gas rather than coal. “  said David Elmes, Warwick Business School, Head of the WBS Global Energy Research Network.

“There are still challenges and opportunities ahead. Using less coal is not just about changing the fuel used in power stations, it’s a shift in the way we generate, store and use energy from big centralised solutions like large power stations and the national network of pylons and cables we use to move electricity around.  We already see a move to more local, distributed ways that energy is made and used, in our homes, communities and in industry.”

Cooling towers, West Burton Power Station, image courtesy of Richard Croft