Britain is setting new records for going without coal-powered energy. In the latest milestone, it has gone for more than eight days without using coal to generate electricity – the longest such period since 1882.
The coal-free run comes less than two years after the National Grid first ran without coal power for 24 hours.
Phasing out the heavily polluting fuel is a key step in the transition towards a net-zero carbon economy and essential to averting catastrophic climate change.
The government last year unveiled its plan to shut down all remaining coal plants by 2025, a move that was welcomed by environmental groups.
The rapid collapse of coal power in Britain has in part been predicated on the introduction of a “carbon price floor” in 2013, which slashed the fuel’s profitability.
Although a significant share of coal-powered energy has been replaced by renewable sources such as solar and wind power, the largest power source in Britain remains natural gas, a carbon-emitting fossil fuel.
Within the European Union, between 2000 and 2018 the share of electricity generated by coal dropped in all member states except the Netherlands, and renewable energy sources increased their share everywhere except in Latvia.
However, heavily coal-dependent economies in central Europe have been slow to phase out the dirty fuel. Germany, for instance, has delayed shutting down all coal plants until 2038 and is set to miss its goal of cutting 40% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Sweden had the lowest share of electricity generated by fossil fuels in 2018, instead using a mix of renewables and nuclear energy, which is classed as a low-carbon power source.