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Last edited 01 Jul 2021
Coal usage for electricity generation to end by October 2024
The policy change brings the deadline forward by one year and is part of the Government’s plans to transition away from fossil fuels and decarbonise the power sector. It will not apply to non-electricity generating coal consumers, such as the steel industry, nor to domestic coal mines.
Coal is considered to be one of the most carbon intensive fossil fuels and is responsible for the creation of harmful air pollution. By eliminating the use of coal in electricity generation, the UK hopes to play a role in limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.
On 18 September 2017, following a consultation in November 2016, the Government confirmed that it would proceed with action to regulate for the closure of unabated coal power generation units in Great Britain by 1 October 2025. On 4 February 2020, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s intention to bring forward the deadline for phasing out unabated coal generation to 1 October 2024.
The Government ran a consultation from 14 December 2020 to 26 February 2021 seeking views on proposals to achieve this objective. The analysis found that setting a closure date of either 2025 or 2024 would most likely not have a significant impact on the UK coal mining sector predominantly due to the fact that coal mining in the UK has already been in decline in recent years.
In March 2021, coal-fired power plants did not participate in the four-year ahead Capacity Market auction. The auction secures the electricity capacity Great Britain needs to cope with peaks in demand in 2024 - 2025. Coal power plants will not participate in any future Capacity Market auctions due to the introduction of Emissions Limits to the Market.
 Transitioning away from coal
The UK has reduced the use of coal across the power sector, with coal accounting for only 1.8% of the electricity mix in 2020, compared with 40% almost a decade ago. Ending unabated coal generation in 2024 will mean the country will have reduced coal usage from almost a third of its electricity supply in 2014 to zero in 2024.
In 2020, the UK went 5,000 hours without coal-fired electricity. During that period, the country generated 43.1% of its electricity from renewable sources including wind (24.2%), bioenergy (12.6%), solar (4.2%) and hydro (2.2%). Coal only consisted of 1.8 % of the year’s electricity generation, and nuclear generation made up a further 16.1%.
The rise in the use of renewables - thanks to competition, free enterprise and government incentives to kick start new technologies - has in turn helped to drive down the cost of green energy, with coal power now more expensive in most countries.
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