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Coal absent from GB grid for two months as it continues to smash records

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Great Britain has gone a staggering two months without coal generation, smashing previous records.

The milestone was passed at midnight, with today (10 June) marking two months since Drax unit 5 switched off, the last of GB’s coal fleet to stop generating according to EnAppSys.

National Grid ESO confirmed GB was set to achieve the milestone on Twitter yesterday (9 June), stating: “Great Britain’s record #coalfree run of #electricity generation is still powering on, and is set to hit the two month mark at midnight tonight – an incredible achievement”.

The coal-free run beat previous records in April, surpassing the 18 days, 6 hours and ten minutes set in May 2019. It then continued on, passing a month without the fossil fuel on the grid on 10 May 2020.

The spell has been attributed to the low demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside high levels of renewables due to sunny and windy weather.

Demand has seen significant reductions, having fallen around 20% lower than predicted levels. This is largely due to the shut down of industry since the lockdown came into place on 23 March.

The Easter weekend bank holiday saw a record low with just 15.2GW of demand.

This lowered demand has resulted in National Grid ESO bringing in a number of new measures to help balance the grid, including modifications to the Grid Code and a new Downward Flexibility Management service to reduce output from embedded generators.

Surging renewables are also contributing to the lack of coal in GB's energy mix. On 20 April, a new record for peak solar generation was set, hitting a high of 9.68GW.

May continued the trend, becoming GB's greenest ever month. The average carbon intensity of the electricity network came in at 143gCO2/kWh, with the lowest ever carbon intensity of 46gCO2/kWh recorded on 24 May.

"Recent tests of an increasingly flexible energy system during sunny bank holidays in lockdown, all of which have been dealt with without issue, show that the grid is ready to move quicker than many thought possible," Jess Ralston, analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said.

"The question is now whether policymakers keep pace with this to encourage further investment into clean energy sources.

“A focus on new technology such as batteries as the country recovers from the current economic shock will only accelerate these long term trends, and will see us move past the end of coal and begin to look to the end of reliance on other fossil fuels," Ralston added.

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