May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

UK's First Coal-Free Week Since 1882

May 11, 2019 09:54 AM EDT

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In more than 130 years, the UK has not used coal to generate electricity for seven consecutive days, according to National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO).

This is the first time that coal has been absent from the energy mix for an entire week since the UK launched its first public coal power station in 1882. On Wednesday, 8th of May, they reached the milestone at 13:24. The last coal generator came off the system exactly a week earlier at 13:24hrs on Wednesday the 1st of May.

For much of the 20th century, coal dominated the UK's electricity production and in fact, until the 1990s, it still took up at least 67 percent of it, but in the recent years, it is constantly declining.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in 2017 coal accounted for 4.8 percent of UK primary energy demand. Looking back, in 2016, the UK's solar power produced more electricity than coal.

This latest milestone has been achieved through significant investments in low carbon technologies and network infrastructure. According to ESO Director Fintan Slye, he said that "We have been working with industry over the last few years to ensure the services we require to operate the network are not dependent on coal," he said. "We have been forecasting the closure of coal plant and reduced running for some time - due to us having to manage more renewables on the system. Transmission owners have invested in their networks accordingly and we have refined our operational strategies and real-time operation of the network to ensure continued secure and economic operation."

She further added this is only the beginning and that he expects to see many more coal-free periods in the months and years that follow. "As more and more renewables come onto 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."

The reaction towards this new is ambivalent. Some are saying that this step will barely make a dent on the country's CO2 emission issue and that the government is only doing this since cleaning up coal-fired plants is easier than trying to fix millions of cars, trucks, buses, and trains and that mentioning zero-carbon by 2025 is just that, talk. That this is more of a political aspiration; and that they're just replacing one CO2 generation system with a lesser one - but no path has been described to get to zero.

Though regardless, one thing still remains true, we need to put in more effort into getting these CO2 emissions down, for the planet and for our future.

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