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For First Time Ever Britain’s Electricity Was Coal-Free For a Full Month

In May 2020 Britain’s electricity supply was completely coal-free for the entire calendar month for the first time ever.

Throughout May, coal-fired plants were not used for the first time since the country began generating electricity from the fossil fuel in 1882.

The National Grid, the energy system operator, said the country’s sunniest spring since records began in 1929 helped generate enough solar power to reduce the carbon intensity of the grid to record lows, while breezy weather also helped generate wind energy.

In total, renewable energy sources made up around 28 percent of Britain’s electricity, while gas-fired power generation made up 30 percent.

On top of the favourable weather conditions, the coronavirus lockdown has also led to a record low demand for electricity, meaning coal plants have not been needed.

The country has now gone more than 50 consecutive days coal-free.

Roisin Quinn, head of National Grid’s control centre, said: “Great Britain’s incredible coal-free run has continued throughout May, giving us the first full calendar month – 744 straight hours – of electricity generation without coal since the Industrial Revolution. And while April was a month of record highs for solar generation, May brought us some equally exciting record lows for carbon.

“Low demand on the electricity system continues to present our control rooms engineers with a unique challenge – particularly with two May bank holiday weekends within two weeks relaxing already low demand ever further.”

She continued: “On the afternoon of 24 May we saw the grid at its all-time greenest, with a new record low carbon intensity of 46 gCO2kWh (the amount of carbon produced for every kilowatt-hour of electricity used) helping May to become the greenest month we’ve ever seen on the electricity system.

“The weather (and to a lesser extent the low demand) is the leading factor in these records and trends, and although May’s sunshine didn’t power us to a record high, overall solar share was up from last month – with periods where solar was comfortably our top power source, sometimes making up a third of our country’s electricity generation mix.”

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