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Solar abundance enables the UK’s longest period without coal-fired electricity

Image credit: DT

The UK has had the longest coal-free period since pre-industrial times due to an abundance of solar generation on the grid coupled with reduced demand for energy during the coronavirus lockdown.

Coal power has now been offline since 00:00 on Friday 10 April 2020 and since then the UK has seen more than 1 terawatt-hour of solar power put on the grid.

The UK has been weaning itself off coal power over the last few years, in September Government figures showed that just 0.6 per cent of the country's electricity was generated from the fossil fuel.

The closure of Fiddler’s Ferry at the end of March also leaves just four remaining coal-fired power stations still in operation in the UK.

The coronavirus lockdown has also had a dramatic impact on the UK’s electricity usage. While home energy demand has actually increased by 30 per cent with many people locked indoors until the crisis is over, overall demand is down by nearly 20 per cent.

This is largely due to reduced demand from large industrial users coupled with the closure of most businesses and offices.

The chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, Chris Hewett, said: “Solar is playing a critical role in delivering a fossil-free grid and cleaner, cheaper power to Britain. As we look towards a net zero future, solar will become an increasingly greater part of the energy mix, tackling high power prices, climate change, and biodiversity loss.”

“With the Government beginning to consider how best to kick-start the economy following the Covid-19 crisis, it has a golden opportunity to place renewables at the heart of its recovery package.

“Solar in particular can provide a glut of quality green jobs and growth at short notice, with your average solar park able to be built in less than six months, and home installation in less than a day. The industry is ready to help drive the revival.”

Last week’s bumper generation saw over 11 per cent of UK electricity demand being met with solar.

A new daily peak generation record of 9.68GW was also set at 12:30 on Monday 20 April 2020, and weekly generation record at 485.41GWh. Clear skies and cool temperatures in recent weeks have provided optimal conditions for solar efficiency.

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