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News from the UK Power Industry 4th June 2019

Posted by: James Turner
Industry News

UK breaks record with zero coal fortnight

The UK has lasted for a fortnight without using any coal power to generate electricity for the first time since the industrial revolution.

The latest landmark comes less than a month after Britain’s first week without coal, underlining the dramatic decline in its use in recent years. Coal has been used for electricity generation since 1882, when a plant opened in Holborn, London. However, in 2018 the fuel made up just 5% of Britain’s electricity generation, a big decline from about 40% in 2012, according to figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Coal has largely been replaced by natural gas, which produces less than half the carbon dioxide emissions. Renewable sources with no direct carbon emissions, such as solar and wind power, accounted for 28% of electricity generation in 2018.

Modelling by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that coal use for energy generation globally will have to be reduced to close to zero in every scenario in which global temperature increases are limited to 1.5C.

Seven coal-fired power stations remain in use in the UK, mainly as backups during cold periods when energy demands are high. The government last year revealed plans to shut down all coal-fired power stations by 2025, but it has come under pressure to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels after parliament declared a climate emergency at the start of the month.

Government policy is that the UK is “on a path” to making the legal commitment to reduce net carbon emissions to zero. Chris Skidmore, the energy and clean growth minister, said the government was “consigning coal to the history books”. He said the government “aims to become the first major economy to legislate for a net-zero emissions economy and bid to host pivotal climate talks in 2020”. Full story.

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Zero carbon cluster under development by energy trio

A partnership of Equinor, Drax Group and National Grid Ventures have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the development of a “zero carbon cluster”.

The plans will involve construction of a large-scale carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) network and a hydrogen production facility. The initial stages will explore various opportunities for construction to determine whether it would be feasible, with a target set in the mid-2020s.

The scheme would involve scaling a Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) to create the world’s first carbon negative power station. This would form the anchor for a regional CCUS network capable of capturing millions of tonnes of carbon each year.

Following that they will look at the potential development of a large-scale hydrogen demonstrator at the same site, to lead strategic opportunities for the hydrogen economy in the region.

Will Gardiner, chief executive of Drax Group, said: “The Committee on Climate Change was clear - the UK needs both bioenergy with CCS and hydrogen production at scale by 2030 to achieve a net zero carbon economy. This partnership is committed to meeting this challenge putting Great Britain at the heart of the global energy revolution. We’re excited to be working with National Grid Ventures and Equinor on this project – for decades the Humber has been a strategically important industrial cluster for the UK – it has the skills, industrial capability as well as offshore storage to transform itself into a cutting-edge low carbon hub.”

The business trio have agreed to publish a study outlining the technical, economic and social opportunities for CCUS and hydrogen production in the Humber region later this year. Full story.

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