The UK government has brought forward the ban on the use of unabated coal by a year, so that from 1 October 2024, Britain will no longer use coal within its energy system.
Energy and climate change minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced the change ahead of a Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) Europe roundtable meeting today. It follows significant progress in moving the UK away from the fossil fuel in recent years, with just 1.8% of the energy mix coming from coal in 2020, as opposed to 40% a decade ago.
The government launched a consultation in February 2020 on the possibility of bringing forward the phase-out date for coal generation forward from 2025. Since then, more coal power plants have continued to shutter with EDF announcing in March that its West Burton A station will close in September 2022. This follows Drax’s two remaining coal plants closing in March 2021, and SSE’s last coal-fired power station, Fiddler’s Ferry, and RWE’s Aberthaw B coal-fired power station, both closing in March 2020.
Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar plant is set to be the sole coal-fired power station in the UK from 2022.
Renewable energy capacity has continued to soar, helping push coal off the grid. 2020 was dubbed the ‘greenest year’ ever by various groups as wind and solar continued to smash records.
Last year also saw 67 days and 16 hours without coal in the fuel mix. The continued decline of the technology allowed another historic first, with Britain celebrating its first ‘coal free Christmas’.
“Coal powered the industrial revolution 200 years ago, but now is the time for radical action to completely eliminate this dirty fuel from our energy system,” said Trevelyan.
“Today we’re sending a clear signal around the world that the UK is leading the way in consigning coal power to the history books and that we’re serious about decarbonising our power system so we can meet our ambitious, world-leading climate targets.”
The government noted that it was urging other nations to follow in its steps and abandon coal for good, which will be a top priority of its COP26 presidency.
Britain is set to host the climate change conference in Glasgow this November.
COP26 president-designate Alok Sharma added his hope that the decisive step away from fossil fuels sends a clear signal that “clean power is the way forward”.
“The next decade will be make, or break, for our planet and the most powerful way we can make a difference is to end our reliance on coal.”