Coal coming back into the UK energy mix?
The short version, No.
The slightly longer version, Yes but only for a short time.
The UK has seen its coal usage creep back up this winter, to a consistent generation mix of around 5% of all mainland electricity.
Which when you look at that 5%, it doesn't look like a lot, and it isn't. However, the UK has been slowly kicking its dependence on coal, moving away from dazzling high level of coal use, like seen in 1990 for example, where coal was up at 75% of the UK energy mix.
Over the past few years - especially 2019 - Coal has started to become an almost non-factor at times.
With the UK consistently setting new 'Coal Free Records', with a massive 83 coal-free days in 2019 and just a yearly contribution of only 2.1% of UK energy generation.
So what happening over this winter?
It's cold, heating is on - that makes sense. However, it might actually be mostly down to another interesting reason.
The coal plants are closing. So any stockpiles of coal will soon be useless. All remaining UK coal power stations are planned to be closed from now till no later than 2024.
The prime example of this was in Cheshire at SSE’s Fiddler’s Ferry power plant over last weekend, which is scheduled to close next month, the plant was turned on and supplied the gird with energy. This wasn't due to power demands, but simply as the site has coal, which will soon become useless. Factor in as well, that coal that has been just sitting in yards isn't easy to resell.
They confirmed this to be the case, burning coal “to use the remaining stocks over the winter when demand is at its highest”.
Drax, another owner of coal power plants, has contracts to supply the UK with electricity from coal when the power network is tight on other supplies up until 2022. But have said this has seldom been the case over this winter.
While this use of coal, and indeed any use of coal, is far from ideal. It's fantastic to see the fundamental changes in the UK energy supply. Even this use of coal shows the lack of value is now has.