Great Britain’s new record for the longest period of coal-free electricity generation

Great Britain has set a new record for the longest period of coal-free electricity generation in the country, our national control room confirmed this morning.

The previous record of 18 days, 6 hours and 10 minutes – set in June last year – was broken at 6.10am this morning, marking over 438 hours and 10 minutes since the last coal generator came off the system at midnight on Thursday 9 April.

April 2020 has already been a record-breaking month for renewable electricity in Great Britain, with a new solar generation record of 9.68GW set at 1.30pm last Monday (April 20).

Earlier in the year, February became the greenest month on record for UK electricity generation, with average carbon intensity – the measure of CO2 emissions produced per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed – reaching a new low.

Weather continues to play the central role in determining the mix of electricity, but reduced levels of electricity demand play a role too. Lockdown measures in place since late March have seen a significant reduction in demand across the country, with an increase in domestic consumption being outweighed by reduced industrial demand. The change in demand, along with frequent sunny and windy spells across the country, are all contributing factors to the latest records.

As ESO – a legally separate business within the National Grid group – we sit at the heart of the electricity system for Great Britain, and use the most cost-effective mix of generation to balance supply and demand and make sure electricity is always there when people need it.

Fintan Slye, director of ESO, said:

“2020 is shaping up to be a record-breaking year for Great Britain’s electricity system, and I’ve little doubt we’ll see more exciting developments as the growth and performance of renewables continues to transform our grid at an astonishing rate.

“Within a matter of days we’ve seen a new solar generation record, and the longest period of coal-free operation in Britain. And that follows two of the greenest months on record at the start of the year, underlining the progress that’s being made towards our target of being able to operate the electricity system entirely with zero carbon sources by 2025.

“We’ve been planning, investing in the system and working with industry for years to make sure we’re ready to run a coal-free system with an increasing share of renewables, introducing new technologies and more intelligent ways of using energy to make sure the system is flexible and resilient to the challenges that decarbonisation brings.

“A zero carbon grid is a stretching target, but it’s crucially important – and milestones like our latest coal-free run show that Great Britain is leading the world in transitioning to net zero.”

Last week, we shared a series of new videos highlighting our mobile app which allows users to see how their electricity is being generated, and predicts when it will be greenest – so consumers can use energy at the ‘cleanest’ possible time of day.