Despite the chaos of Brexit and the difficulty of expanding renewable generation in a country where sunshine is in notoriously short supply and there is strong resistance to wind turbines, Britain has just about ended its use of coal-fired electricity. The last coal-fired power stations are set to close by 2025, but the process is almost complete already. How was this achieved?
I found a useful graph from OFGEM, the British electricity regulator showing developments since 2006, when coal (graphed in orange) supplied around 40 per cent of UK electricity. By 2018, it’s negligible. The graph at the site is interactive, so you can easily get actual numbers.
It turns out that generation from gas and nuclear plants has been virtually constant over the period since 2006. These sources displaced substantial volumes of coal-fired power during the second half of the 20th century.
The elimination of coal has come from two main sources. First, total electricity use has declined, reflecting increased efficiency. Second, wind (offshore and onshore) has expanded to the point where it is now about as a big a source as nuclear.
I have some other thoughts about the UK case, but for now I’ll leave this open for comments.