Aligned with the House of Commons 2050 Net Zero Emissions target and the United Nations ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ SDG (Sustainable Development Goal), the UK is now striving toward a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2025. With this comes a zero-coal target alongside the closure of coal mines country-wide, with The Bradley Mine extracting it’s last coal on the 17th August 2020.
Coal is burned to generate electricity and has been the most relied upon source of power for generations. However, the burning of coal emits a dangerous mix of greenhouse gases, particularly large amounts of carbon dioxide, which contributes to pollution and global warming. Therefore, in an effort to counteract the effects of climate change and reduce harmful carbon emissions, the UK has now been urged to go coal-free and close down its coal mines.
According to the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), this year the UK went entirely coal-free for a record-breaking 67 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes. Unfortunately, essential maintenance testing at a coal plant ended the streak, but now coal production has effectively ceased across England. One business, with coal mines in Wales and Scotland, even tried to get permission to keep their mines open until 2021, but their request was denied.
There has been a significant drop in demand for coal as a result of COVID-19 – combined with this year’s soaring temperatures and the glaring reality of climate change. One third of the UK’s electricity is now generated by wind or solar power which is becoming increasingly cheaper than coal alternatives. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), solar and wind power are now cheaper than ever to produce. On top of this, it is cheaper to build completely new renewable power plants than to continue to run existing coal mines. Hopefully, carbon-free sources of power will soon supplant the coal industry and help the UK achieve the 2050 Net Zero target.