Britain’s electricity mix was the greenest on record in May, as soaring temperatures and low demand for power due to lockdown left no need to burn coal.

Coal-fired power plants were not used during the entire month, the first time that has happened since the country began generating electricity from the fossil fuel in 1882.

National Grid’s energy system operator (ESO), said the sunny weather helped generate record high levels of electricity though wind and solar power.  Renewable sources made up about 28% of Britain’s electricity last month, narrowly behind gas-fired power generation, which made up 30% of the energy mix. 

The Met Office said this year’s spring was the sunniest since records began in 1929, with more than 573 hours of sunshine recorded between March 1 and May 27 – beating the previous record of 555.3 hours.

Head of National Grid’s control centre Roisin Quinn, said this was the chief reason coal was not needed, as well as the collapse in energy demand with businesses ad offices closed across the country.

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‘Great Britain’s incredible coal-free run has continued throughout May, giving us the first full calendar month – 744 straight hours – of electricity generation without coal since the Industrial Revolution’ she said in the latest monthly report.

The ‘incredible coal-free run’ stands at 54 days and counting, National Grid said yesterday.

This time five years ago the coal usage was at 5%, showing the level of progress made.

The government plans to phase out the UK’s last coal-fired plants by 2025 to reduce carbon emissions.

Earlier in the year, February became the  greenest month on record for UK electricity generation, with average carbon intensity – the measure of CO2 emissions produced per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed – reaching a new low.

That was surpassed on the afternoon of Sunday 24 May, when the the grid was at its all-time greenest.

National Grid CEO John Pettigrew has joined over 200 business leaders in a call to Boris Johnson to deliver a Covid-19 recovery plan that aligns with the UK’s wider social, environmental and climate goals.

Earlier this week he wrote a letter to the PM which said: ‘We’ve been working hard to play our part in keeping the power and gas flowing to the UK’s homes and hospitals throughout the pandemic, while continuing to deliver critical infrastructure projects that will ensure our energy networks are fit for the future. 

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‘We’ve estimated that the energy sector alone will need hundreds of thousands of new recruits as we work towards Net Zero and believe that an economic recovery with climate action at its heart will be key to unlocking these opportunities.’

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