Britain’s power output has been coal-free for a record 18 days, according to National Grid ESO.
With wind and solar hitting new records this month, and as coronavirus diminishes demand, the announcement marks the longest period of coal-free generation since the Industrial Revolution. In the past twelve months coal has contributed only 2.5 per cent of UK power. As recently as 2013, it was 40 per cent.
While good news in terms of power system decarbonisation, grid output predicted this summer by the ESO to plummet by up to 20 per cent, coupled with the surge in renewables, poses stability challenges.
With ‘dispatchable’ output from centralised rendered less viable due to zero marginal cost renewables, new forms of flexibility take on added importance for Grid. Asking renewables generators to hold back output is expensive. The ESO is rethinking how it approaches footroom and mulling new forms of curtailment.
Britain’s grid first experienced coal-free power in March 2017. May and June of 2019 set records of 14 and then 17 days.
Once Europe’s biggest coal plant, Drax in Yorkshire declared two months ago it will quit burning coal next March, leaving a reserve against Capacity Market contingencies. Britain’s last three remaining coal plants yet to confirm closure are EDF’s West Burton A, Uniper’s Ratcliffe and Kilroot, owned by Energeticky a Prumyslovy.