Where were you at 3:12pm last Friday? And did you realise that according to the National Grid Electricity System Operator, we hit a new milestone.
At precisely that time on 28th May, 2019, Great Britain recorded two weeks of coal-free electricity generation throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
It is two years since we recorded our first whole day of electricity produced without burning a single lump of coal (21st April 2017) so things have moved on significantly, although that doesn’t seem fast enough for me.
However, it’s also worth noting that it is less than a month since we recorded our first full week without coal.
So, whilst took us roughly two years to get from one day to one week, we have now doubled that production of sustainable, renewable energy by going a whole fortnight (2 weeks) in less than a month, so there must be potential to become greener even quicker.
The nation’s energy system is changing to embrace low-carbon and long may it continue.
The end of coal
Coal will still remain a necessary fuel for us in the immediate future, at least until we find ways to store the power from wind and sun for later use. There are also times when we need more power than the system can manage from non-coal sources.
But as the mainstay of our nation’s energy production, I think everyone can see that its life is limited.
The same applies to our homes, and households that still rely on coal for their main heating are now becoming a rarity in the UK thank goodness.
Thousands and thousands of social landlords and ecologically minded households have already shifted to renewable heating such as air source heat pumps, which become even more viable and attractive as we move towards low carbon power generation.
The end of gas as well
It is not just forward-thinking ‘eco-warriors’ or social housing providers that have realised the benefits of heat pumps because the Government has also recognised how important air source heat pumps and is predicting one million being installed each year by 2030.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has also called for the Government to ban the installation of gas boilers in all new homes by 2025, meaning the future of heating in the UK will focus heavily on heat pumps.
You already use a heat pump
Air to water (or air source) heat pumps consume electricity but use it to maximise renewable heating and hot water for our homes, with 1kW of electricity producing an average of 3kW of heating energy.
And the technology has been around for decades now with just about every home already using a heat pump … in their kitchen.
It’s called a fridge and it takes heat from the food to make it cold. It then rejects this at the back of the fridge into the room.
An air source heat pump does this but in reverse. It uses the same basic technology (called a vapour compression cycle) to move heat from one area to another but instead of food/the back of the fridge, it becomes air/hot water for the home.
Thousands and thousands of homes are now benefiting from reliable, renewable heating using this technology and that is now set to really take off over the next 5 years or so.
In the meantime, we’ve now reached another landmark which shows how the nation’s energy system is changing to embrace low-carbon electricity production through the use of nuclear, solar panels, wind turbines and a switch from coal to biomass and gas-powered stations.
And long may it continue.
Russell Jones is content and communications manager for Mitsubishi Electric