The Energy Collective Group

This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

9,754 Subscribers

Post

Coal Power Generation Declines in United Kingdom as Natural Gas, Renewables Grow

United Kingdom electricity generation by fuel, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Digest of U.K. Energy Statistics and National Statistics: Energy Trends. Note: 2017 values are estimates based on data through September.

In the United Kingdom, electricity produced from coal declined from 42% of total electricity generation in 2012 to 7% in 2017. According to U.K. National Grid data, on April 21, 2017, the country went 24 hours without any electricity generated from coal for the first time since the 1880s. In January 2018, the U.K. government laid out an implementation plan to shut down all coal-fired electricity generation plants by 2025 that do not have carbon capture and storage technology.

UK coal consumption, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Digest of U.K. Energy Statistics and National Statistics: Energy Trends. Note: 2017 values are estimates based on data through September.

Coal consumption has been declining in the United Kingdom for decades. Total coal consumption peaked at 244 million short tons (MMst) in 1956, the year the United Kingdom enacted the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act—prompted by the great London smog of 1952—prohibited the emission of dark smoke from industrial buildings, private homes, and railroad locomotives.

At the time, industrial coal use accounted for more than half of total U.K. coal consumption, and railroad and home use accounted for almost a quarter of total coal consumption. The remaining coal consumption in 1956—about 50 MMst—was mainly in the electric sector.

As industrial, railroad, and residential use of coal decreased, consumption of coal by the electric power sector increased, peaking at 99 MMst in 1980. Coal consumption in the electric power sector began a steep decline in 2013. Several factors contributed to the decline, including the implementation of the U.K. Carbon Price Floor (CPF), which increased the cost of carbon emissions for electric generators.

The United Kingdom’s CPF works in combination with the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). If the EU ETS carbon price is lower than the U.K. CPF, electric generators have to buy credits from the U.K. Treasury to make up the difference. The CPF applies to both generators that produce electricity for the grid and companies that produce electricity for their own use.

UK carbon prices, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on European Energy Exchange and House of Commons Library

The U.K. CPF is currently 18 British pounds sterling (GBP) per ton of carbon, the equivalent of about US $25 per metric ton, where it will remain at least through the 2019 fiscal year (which ends March 31, 2020). Since 2012, the EU ETS carbon price has stayed below 10 Euro per metric ton of carbon, the equivalent of about US $12.30 per metric ton. Although originally intended to increase annually, the CPF was capped from 2016 to 2020 to limit the impact on U.K. businesses. Discussions are ongoing about the value of the CPF after 2020.

For more information on the United Kingdom’s energy industry, see EIA’s recently updated United Kingdom Country Analysis Brief.

Principal contributor: Justine Barden

Original Post

Content Discussion

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on April 27, 2018

Looks like the UK nuclear generation has also increased from 20 to 24 % in the last 4 years.

The UK is now becoming dependent on imported natural gas. They do have shale gas resources but a loud anti-fracking movement, covertly supported by Russia, has been successful in burying that option.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/19/russia-secretly-working-with-environmentalists-to-oppose-fracking

Yosef Shirazi's picture
Yosef Shirazi on April 29, 2018

Jarmo, it appears that nuclear generation has actually remained steady over this period. The increased market share of nuclear from 20% to 24% is explained by total generation decreasing by ~15%.

I’m particularly interested in the biomass generation. Does anyone know if this is pure biomass or is it often co-fired with something else?

Also, for anyone interested, there is a fantastic website that tracks the UK grid in real time: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk