There is a double-whammy of data out today, which shows the full magnitude of the fall in emissions from the UK’s coal plants – down by 23% in 2015, and Q1-2016 down a further 53% versus Q1-2015.

The 2015 actual emissions are published for all installations in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme.  These show UK coal power plant emissions fell by 23% last year, from 87mt to 67mt.  However, this was also accompanied by a fall in gas emissions of 3%, as the fall in coal was entirely offset by increased renewables generation.  This meant overall UK power sector emissions were down 17% in 2015.

Figure 1 Sandbag analysis from EU ETS data


Out of the 11 UK coal power stations open last year, the biggest faller was EON’s Ratcliffe, which fell by 48%, from 9.2mt to 4.8mt.

The story in the UK is in stark contrast to Germany, where rising renewables capacity has not been met with an equivalent decline in coal. German lignite plants continue to lead Europe in emissions, as Germany exports its energy to neighbouring countries and shuts down its low-carbon nuclear plants.

Figure 2 Emissions of 11 UK coal power stations


Secondly, coal generation in Q1-16 fell by a massive 53%, as compared to Q1-15.  Sandbag today has analysed Elexon data up to 30-March, to show this immense change.  This rapid fall in coal generation this Q1 has been offset by an increase in gas generation, although we expect this to be a temporary, as renewable capacity continues to be built.

Figure 3 Sandbag analysis from Elexon data via GridTemplar


So what will coal emissions be in the future?

In the last week, Longannet and Ferrybridge both closed, and Eggborough will only be available to run after 1-April if dispatched by National Grid.  These 3 coal power stations were responsible for 22% of all the UK coal fleet’s CO2 emissions in 2015, so it is fairly safe to say that UK coal emissions will continue to fall even more.


Dave Jones, Sandbag analyst comments:

The UK’s electricity is substantially greener than ever before.  Increased renewables generation is at last displacing coal generation, instead of gas generation.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the fall in coal generation isn’t just a climate change emissions success story; it makes a major difference to UK air quality. With coal plants responsible for 1,600 premature deaths a year in the UK, this accelerated coal phase out is good news for everyone.



European Commission data for 2015 emissions was published today at 1200CEST at this link.

Sandbag will release further details today, including an analysis pack showing key trends and stories of the emissions data on our website.