Britain today advanced by twelve months to 1 October 2024 its deadline for phasing out unabated coal used in power generation.
Prime Minister Johnson had flagged the intention in February 2020. Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan confirmed the move today, following a three-month Beis consultation which attracted 16 representations.
Coal generation at scale effectively disappeared from the UK grid at the time of Johnson’s declaration. Biomass-adopting Drax in Yorkshire announced that same month that it would burn no more coal for power after March 2021.
New records for days of coal-free generation have succeeded each other. In April last year National Grid reported 18 straight coal-free days. By June, this had risen to 67 days.
Today’s move was seen as a step by Johnson’s administration to restore Britain’s credibility as host of November’s CoP26 summit of major carbon-emitting nations and their victims.
A possible planning green light for approval of Woodhouse Colliery in Cumbria, Britain’s first new deep coal mine in thirty years, now taken back for minister Robert Jenrick’s decision, had aroused international suspicions of mixed-messaging by Johnson’s government.
D-BEIS said today’s phase-out announcement will bring the Government’s policy on unabated coal into line with the date of application of the carbon emissions limits in the Capacity Market.
Once Europe’s biggest coal burner, Drax had in recent years been progressively converting its two burners to wood combustion, sourced largely from the American pellet plants it now owns.
Today’s announcement may impose minor curbs on the Yorkshire generator. Any coal plant burning biomass will need to calculate CO2 emissions on a net basis, say ministers. That means other fuels co-fired with solid fossil fuel must be included in the calculations for emission intensity.
The emissions related to the biomass component should be calculated taking into account the whole life cycle of the fuel.
Beis stressed that Britain co-founded the Powering Past Coal Alliance. It now has 122 governments as members and will host, alongside Italy, COP26 in November.
The minister’s full announcement is here.