Coal-free month as National Grid balances high renewables and low demand


Another clean power record tumbled over the VE bank holiday weekend, as Britain clocked up its first ever 30-day period of generation without using output from domestic coal-fired power stations.

Yesterday National Grid reported that coal had been off the nation’s system since April 10. The ESO said renewables accounted for 37 per cent over the month, followed by gas on 30 per cent, nuclear on 21 per cent and interconnectors, which may or may not include power from continental coal-fired generation, providing 11 per cent.

Britain is committed to coal-free generation by 2025. As recently as 2012, coal provided 40 per cent of power output. May 2019 saw the nation’s first coal-free fortnight.

The ESO’s generation mix figures add weight to suggestions that renewables are becoming ‘the new baseload’ during the Covid-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, National Grid has so far managed to integrate large volumes of wind and solar power despite demand dropping as much as 20 per cent as businesses mothball during lockdown.

It has secured emergency changes to codes governing its ability to stop generation connected to distribution networks from exporting, and will pay those that can curtail export or increase import via a new footroom service.

It has also struck a deal with EDF to reduce output from the Sizewell B nuclear plant over summer in a bid to increase system resilience.

Carbon intensity this morning, (Monday 11 May) across the UK grid stood at 107g of CO2e/kWh, as reported by the ESO’s tracking app. Parts of the UK, such as Scotland, were close to zero carbon for periods.

Related stories:

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National Grid outlines new footroom service to tackle lockdown lows

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Coronavirus demand destruction gives National Grid another plate to spin

National Grid mulls footroom options as demand drops

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Coronavirus and the power system: Keep calm and put the kettle on

Fintan Slye: Inertia has been taken for granted, it will become much more important

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