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No coal in the nation’s stocking: Britain sees first coal-free Christmas Day

Generation from coal was down to just 1.8% on average over 2020.

Generation from coal was down to just 1.8% on average over 2020.

In what was a year of records for Britain’s energy system, the Christmas period held a number of new achievements.

This included the first Christmas Day without coal since the Industrial Revolution, with 30.9% of electricity coming from gas, 27.1% from wind, 21.4% from nuclear, 9.1% from imports, 7% from biomass, 2.9% from hydro and 1.5% from solar ensuring no coal was needed, according to National Grid ESO.

The year saw a number of coal-related records broken, including coal staying off the grid for more than two months during the second quarter of the year. Renewable generation rose 32% year-on-year during the same period, setting a number of records as carbon intensity fell and demand remained low.

In 2009, coal generated 20% of the nations electricity, while last year this was down to just 1.8% according to the ESO.

Boxing Day also saw new clean energy records being set, with wind turbines generating more than half of the country’s electricity over an entire day for the first time. Storm Bella drove wind up to 100mph, pushing up the share of wind generation to 50.67% according to Drax Electric Insights.

This beat out the previous record set on 21 August 2020, where wind power contributed 50% of the Britain’s electricity over a 24 hour period.

While wind generation has hit as high as 60% during Storm Francis in August, this was not sustained over a full day.

Wind generation is set to continue to grow throughout 2021 and beyond, and formed a central pillar of much of the UK's energy policy in recent times. This includes Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to reach 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 in October 2020, which was reiterated in the Ten Point Plan and energy white paper.

The growth of wind and other renewables has helped to drive down carbon emissions, with 2020 expected to be the greenest year on record, National Grid ESO added on Twitter, once the final statistics for December are in.

Between January and November 2020, there was an average of 181gCO2/KWh. This marks a 66% drop from 2013 levels, which averaged 529CO2/KWh.

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