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British Power grid notches up first week of coal-free operation

By Emily Beament, Press Association Environment Correspondent

Britain's electricity grid has gone a full week without coal for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the system operator has confirmed.

The new record - the first coal-free week since use of the fossil fuel for electricity began in the 19th century - will be set at 1.24pm Wednesday, a week after the last generator came off the system.

But operators already know the grid will not be using any coal to power British homes and businesses before then.

It comes just two years after Britain marked its first full day without coal, but National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) director Fintan Slye predicted coal-free generation will become the "new normal".

He said: "As more and more renewables come on to our energy system, coal-free runs like this are going to be a regular occurrence.

"We believe that by 2025 we will be able to fully operate Great Britain's electricity system with zero carbon.

"Zero-carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate - integrating newer technologies right across the system - from large-scale offshore wind to domestic-scale solar panels to increased demand-side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real time."

And he said: "Operating a zero-carbon electricity system in 2025, whenever there is sufficient renewable generation, is a major stepping stone to full decarbonisation of the entire electricity system.

"This will enable new technologies and removes barriers to ever increasing levels of renewables."

Government figures show that renewables - wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower - accounted for a record 27.5% of electricity supplies in 2018.

Low-carbon generation, which also includes nuclear power, accounted for half of supplies (49.6%), a new record high for clean electricity.

Coal,which the Government has pledged to bring off the system by 2025, fell to new lows in 2018, accounting for just 6% of UK power supplies, while gas made up 43.9% of the supply mix, down from 44.8% in 2017.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: "Going a week without coal for the first time since the Industrial Revolution is a huge leap forward in our world-leading efforts to reduce emissions, but we're not stopping there.

"To combat climate change and seize on the opportunities of clean growth, we're phasing out coal entirely by 2025 and building a cleaner, greener energy system."

Government advisers the Committee on Climate Change have outlined how the UK could and should reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Clark said the UK was now on a path to become the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions.

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