Britain previously held a record for not burning coal for 2 weeks. However, that record has been shattered by going coal-free for 2 months and still going strong. This long stretch is a direct result of carefully building up the world’s largest wind farm and a decrease in the overall energy demand due to COVID-19.
When the energy demand shrunk due to COVID-19, coal power plants were shut down one by one. Now, none of them operate. Instead, other energy sources, led by renewable energy, have been supplying power to the country without issue.
To put this into perspective, just a decade ago, the country only had 3% of its energy production come from solar and wind. Estimates for this year say renewables account for the majority of energy with 37%.
Fossil Fuels Are Still in Use
While this is great news, it should be noted that fossil fuels, namely natural gas, still make up 35% of energy generation. On top of that, the Drax power station switched from coal to wood pellets.
Unfortunately, this change is not a step in the right direction.
When wood is burned, it produces more carbon dioxide than coal. On top of this, trees absorb carbon in our atmosphere. Thus, not only is the power plant producing more carbon dioxide, but it is also removing potential carbon sinks.
How Long It Remain Coal-Free?
As long as the power demand remains low, the coal plants can remain offline. However, the world is beginning to reopen and Britain is no exception. As such, the energy demand is likely to return to normal in the next few months.
On top of this, it is very likely that factories will come back and try to make up for lost time. This could actually lead to a higher energy demand than before, but that remains to be seen.