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    Britain's Electricity has First Coal-Free Week (Update)

Summary

The Electricity System Operator expects to manage without either gas or coal from 2025 as the energy transition progresses.

by: William Powell

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Britain's Electricity has First Coal-Free Week (Update)

(Adds ESO statement on need for gas post-2025 in paras 7&8)

Great Britain's National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said early in the afternoon of May 8 that the last coal generator had came off the system at 13:24hrs on May 1, meaning the country's power market had gone for at least a week without coal at time of press. 

ESO director Fintan Slye said:"While this is the first time this has happened, I predict it will become the ‘new normal’. As more and more renewables come onto our energy system, coal-free runs like this are going to be a regular occurrence.  We believe that by 2025 we will be able to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon.

“Zero carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate – integrating newer technologies right across the system – from large scale off-shore wind to domestic scale solar panels to increased demand side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real-time.

“To help us reach today’s significant milestone, we have been working with industry over the last few years to ensure the services we require to operate the network are not dependent on coal. We have been forecasting the closure of coal plant and reduced running for some time – due to us having to manage more renewables on the system. Transmission owners have invested in their networks accordingly and we have refined our operational strategies and real time operation of the network to ensure continued secure and economic operation.

"To reach zero carbon operation by 2025, we will continue to identify the systems, services and products we will require to run a zero-carbon network and design the new competitive marketplaces needed to source these as efficiently as possible from both new and existing companies. We believe that promoting competition will ultimately lead to better value for consumers. The new products and services we will introduce will help reduce the overall cost of operating the system, driving down costs for consumers.

“Operating a zero carbon electricity system in 2025, whenever there is sufficient renewable generation, is a major stepping stone to full decarbonisation of the entire electricity system. This will enable new technologies and removes barriers to ever increasing levels of renewables.”

ESO's aim is to be able to manage the system without gas from 2025 as well if the market delivers that solution.

ESO told NGW gas generation will still be required as the market needs to meet the demand when the zero carbon generation outputs are not sufficient to supply the nation's demands. "We also believe that gas will have a significant role to play in the balancing and operation of the network at times when demand from the network is greater than the zero carbon output," it said.

The ESO was separated from National Grid from April 1, the aim being to prevent the system balancer from favouring assets owned by National Grid, such as electricity interconnectors.

 The UK minister for business, energy and industrial strategy Greg Clark said: “Going a week without coal for the first time since the Industrial Revolution is a huge leap forward in our world-leading efforts to reduce emissions, but we’re not stopping there. To combat climate change and seize on the opportunities of clean growth, we’re phasing out coal entirely by 2025 and building a cleaner, greener energy system.

“We lead the world when it comes to tackling climate change and we want to carry on breaking records, which is why we’ve put foundations in place to allow our renewables sector to thrive. We’re now on a path to become the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions.”