Coal power will no longer be used in UK from October 2024

30 June 2021, 00:22 | Updated: 30 June 2021, 11:41

The UK has been reducing its use of coal power in favour of renewables
The UK has been reducing its use of coal power in favour of renewables. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Coal will no longer be used to generate electricity in the UK from October 2024, the Government has confirmed.

The phase-out for unabated coal power, which does not capture and permanently bury its carbon dioxide emissions, had been originally scheduled for October 2025.

Coal's contribution to the UK's power mix has dropped from around 40% less than a decade ago to just 1.8% last year, when the grid went 5,000 hours without coal-fired electricity and saw more than a third of the country's power coming from wind.

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The UK grid's shift from coal towards renewables has helped drive down emissions as part of the legal target to cut pollution to net zero by 2050.

However, meeting that goal now needs more efforts to clean up home heating, transport, industry and farming.

Ministers hope the UK phase out of coal will send a signal to other countries that will help drive a global move away from one of the most carbon polluting fossil fuels to tackle climate change.

There are just three operational coal power plants in the UK, since the remaining coal units at Drax in North Yorkshire were mothballed in March, and all are expected to close by October 2024.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: "Today we're sending a clear signal around the world that the UK is leading the way in consigning coal power to the history books and that we're serious about decarbonising our power system so we can meet our ambitious, world-leading climate targets."

Alok Sharma, President of the international Cop26 climate summit which is being held in Glasgow in November, added: "Ahead of Cop26, I hope the UK's decisive step towards a cleaner, greener future sends a clear signal to friends around the world that clean power is the way forward."

Mr Sharma has previously said the United Nations climate summit, which aims to drive worldwide action to limit dangerous global warming, must consign coal power to history.

But the Government came under fire earlier this year for failing to step in to halt the go-ahead for a coking coal mine, for use in steel production, in Cumbria.

Ministers have now "called in" the planned mine to assess the application.

The phase-out is for electricity generation and does not include other uses of coal such as the steel industry or domestic coal mines.

Industry body Energy UK's chief executive Emma Pinchbeck said: "As we face the challenge of cutting emissions across the whole economy, the experience of the power sector shows that, with a clear direction and the right policies in place, we've been able to change quicker than anyone believed possible.

"What we need now is support for the rapid growth of renewables, and secure investment in other low-carbon sources to replace fossil fuels and ensure security of supply as we increase electricity demand for heat and transport."

She called on the Government to provide long-term, stable policy that gives the industry and investors confidence.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: "Although this is welcome news, coal was already fading into the history books.

"But ministerial boasts about taking radical action to completely eliminate this dirty fuel ring hollow while this Government is still sitting on the fence about a new coal mine in Cumbria."