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Read the full report: Coal To Clean – How the UK phased-out coal without a dash for gas
As renewables and smart tech replace coal, planned gas plants destined to become expensive white elephants
New report finds UK is on track to phase-out coal by 2025 and can keep the lights on
without building any new large gas plants
Renewables, storage and more flexible technology will provide enough electricity and keep the UK’s electricity grid stable as coal is phased-out over the next few years – eliminating the need to build new carbon-emitting large gas plants, a new report by WWF and Sandbag has found.
The report – Coal to Clean – models the UK electricity mix up until 2025, the final date for coal phase-out. It finds that gas generation will continue to fall, following the path set by coal.
In April the UK broke a new record and went without coal generation for 76 hours for the first time since the 1880s, a trend that is set to continue with renewable generation on track to entirely replace coal’s contribution to the energy mix by 2022.
Gas generation has dropped as well, after peaking in 2008. In 2017, gas generation was already 24% lower than that peak. If all current gas development in planning was to go ahead it could lock the UK into emissions for the next 30 years at levels far above our obligations under the Paris Accord. At best it leaves us with expensive, white elephant infrastructure overtaken by renewables.
Gareth Redmond King, WWF Head of Climate and Energy said:
“The UK government is leading the way and has set an international precedent by sending coal to the dustbin of history. However it is essential the Government does not substitute one dirty power source for another.
“We need to continue to look forward, doubling down on investment in renewables and targeting our efforts on long term energy storage. We should focus next on removing gas from the energy mix altogether.”
The UK has half of the planned gas power stations in Europe, according to Platt’s Power Station Tracker. The analysis by WWF and Sandbag shows that these gas projects don’t need to go ahead to keep the lights on – and will cost energy bill payers more if they do.
Only 5GW of gas capacity will be required in 2025 to support renewable intermittency. With continued energy efficiency, renewables and interconnector growth, and expansion in energy storage, that figure will dwindle as the decade continues.
By 2020 renewables are forecast to be the single largest source of electricity generation in the UK.
Charles Moore, Analyst at Sandbag commented:
“Amazingly, the UK’s coal phase-out will not require a ‘gas bridge’ as many predicted: surging renewable energy ensures that gas use in the power sector has already peaked. The UK does not need to build any more large gas power plants to keep the lights on.
Measures to support the construction of a new wave of large gas plants would prove a costly mistake for energy bill-payers and the climate.
Ultimately, meeting our climate objectives will require a total gas phase-out: the Government must begin planning for this now. “
WWF is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, with more than five million supporters and a global network active in more than one hundred countries. Through our engagement with the public, businesses and government, we focus on safeguarding the natural world.
Sandbag is a climate change policy think tank based in London and Brussels. Sandbag focuses on accelerating the coal phase-out, putting a price on carbon, and rapid industrial decarbonisation. We do this through targeted, evidence-based research and advocacy. Sandbag’s annual European Power Sector reports are the definitive analysis on the energy transition in the EU.