On 21 April, Britain marked its first full day without using coal-fired power since the world’s first centralised public coal-fired power plant opened in 1882 at Holborn Viaduct in London. The UK’s National Grid described the milestone as a “watershed” moment as part of the country’s plans to phase out its last coal plants by 2025 to cut carbon emissions.
Cordi O’Hara, spokeswoman for the National Grid, said: “To have the first working day without coal since 1882 is a watershed moment on how our energy system is changing. The UK benefits from highly diverse and flexible sources of electricity. Our energy mix continues to change, and National Grid adapts system operation to embrace these changes.” However, she confirmed that coal will remain an important source of energy during its phase-out period.
In 2012, Britain had 17 coal-fired power station with a combined capacity of 23 GW, close to half of the UK’s peak demand. A number closed in 2013 under EU rules to curb acid rain, and more have closed since having become uneconomic. The eight remaining plants, almost 50 years old on average, have a combined capacity of just under 14 GW.