The UK Government announced plans to move the date for the removal of coal fired generation from 2025 to 2024 in February 2020 and commitment to legislating the change before the COP26 summit. COP 26 was subsequently delayed from November 2020 by a year due to Covid-19.

On 30 June 2021, Ministers confirmed the October 2024 date was the official cut-off. The phase-out applies to coal-fired electricity generation only; industrial sectors including steelmaking will still be permitted to use coal for heat to be used in processes only and coal mines in the UK will still be permitted to operate, with extracted coal to be used domestically for heavy industry or internationally. Somewhat disappointing this means that coal exported may still be used for electricity generation. However, the UK is calling on all other nations to implement their own legally binding phase-out dates.

At the recent G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, participating nations collectively agreed to develop net-zero targets for their power sectors in the 2030s. Dates will vary between nations but there are new shared commitments on coal. G7 governments must end direct support for new thermal coal generation capacity without co-located carbon capture technologies by the end of this year. All other inefficient fossil fuel subsidies must then be phased out by 2025.

Looking specifically at the UK’s domestic electricity generation space, coal accounted for almost 40% of generation in 2010, but its share of the energy mix in the electricity sector had fallen to 1.8% by 2020, as more gas and renewables came online. 2020 saw the UK experiencing more than 5,000 hours without coal-fired electricity.

Coal powered the industrial revolution two hundred years ago, but now is the time for radical action to completely eliminate this dirty fuel from our energy system. Today the Government sent a clear signal around the world that the UK is leading the way in consigning coal power to the history books and that it is serious about de-carbonising power system to meet its ambitious, world-leading climate targets.

The announcement came shortly after the Climate Change Committee (CCC) issued its latest progress report on de-carbonisation to Parliament. The report stated that the de-carbonisation rates already achieved in the UK’s electricity sector must now be replicated elsewhere as a matter of urgency, including in sectors such as heat and the built environment, if the nation is to get on track to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget commitments.

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