UK coal power stations to close by the end of 2024

Coal power station

Last week, the government announced that the deadline for phasing coal out entirely from the UK’s fuel mix has been brought forward by a full year. UK coal power stations will cease to be used to generate electricity from the 1st of October 2024.

An end to UK coal power stations

Energy and Climate Change Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced the news that UK coal power stations would no longer be used to generate electricity on the 30th of June, but no legislation has yet been put in place to enforce this policy. The minister’s announcement was as follows:

Today we’re sending a clear signal around the world that the UK is leading the way in consigning coal power to the history books and that we’re serious about decarbonising our power system so we can meet our ambitious, world-leading climate targets.

The targets that the minister refers to are the commitments made under the UK’s plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Coal is a fossil fuel and its use in electricity generation has been a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming generally. Eliminating this from the UK’s fuel mix is a major step in limiting the global rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees celsius.

Steps had already been taken to reduce the proportion of electricity sourced from coal in recent years - only 1.8% of the UK’s electricity mix came from coal in 2020, with the National Grid going 5,000 hours without using electricity from burning coal. Ten years ago, 40% of our electricity was sourced from burning coal, so significant steps have already been taken in reducing our energy industry’s carbon footprint.

UK encourages other nations to follow suit

The above news comes during the year of the UK’s COP26 presidency, and demonstrates the leadership role within the international community that the country is taking at present. Alok Sharma, COP26’s President-Designate, had the following to say:

Ahead of COP26, I hope the UK’s decisive step towards a cleaner, greener future sends a clear signal to friends around the world that clean power is the way forward. The impact of this step will be far greater if we can bring the world with us, and so our desire to support a clean and just energy transition is central to my discussions on the road to COP26.

It will be interesting to see if the UK manages to keep to the date it has set, which is October the 1st 2024, especially given that it is encouraging other countries to set their own dates. We hope that this will mark the end of this fossil fuel’s use in electricity generation for good, and that steps are taken to eliminate all fossil fuels later on.

Interestingly, despite its tough stance on the future of electricity generation through burning coal, the UK government is taking a far more encouraging stance on nuclear energy generation. The government recently announced plans to build a £20bn nuclear power plant proposed by EDF Energy, with funding coming from a surcharge on UK customers’ energy bills.

Nuclear energy is a thorny issue, and while steps are being taken to make the UK energy sector greener, some customers will be questioning a policy which sees them charged for the building of another nuclear plant. Our hope is that, as we move toward 2050, government funding will be directed toward more renewable energy production rather than nuclear.

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