The UK yesterday hit a milestone of running without coal power for three days in a row – the longest coal-free period in the country since the 1880s.

It started on Saturday morning and ended on Tuesday, according to National Grid, hitting a total of 72 hours and 10 minutes.

Without coal on the grid, 33 per cent of the UK’s electricity came from gas, 20 per cent from windpower and 24 per cent from nuclear.

Then there was 8 per cent from imports from France and The Netherlands, 7 per cent from solar, 6 per cent from biomass, 1 per cent from hydropower and 1 per cent from pumped storage.

Coal accounted for less than 7 per cent of Britain’s energy mix last year and the government is to phase-out the fossil fuel completely by 2025.

Hannah Martin, Head of Energy at Greenpeace UK, said in response to the coal-free days: “As coal power is phased out to prevent environmental disaster, and nuclear power phases itself out through economic disaster, the government would be wise to support the cleanest and cheapest energy sources, onshore wind and solar.”

“Offshore wind has proven to be popular and able to provide affordable clean energy, as well as skilled jobs and fair bills. As we have more and more days without coal, we need to make sure it is replaced with the renewable technologies of the future.”

UK power generator Drax may be able to end its coal-fired power operations ahead of the government’s 2025 deadline.

The company’s CEO believes Drax’s biomass and gas-fired power operations, coupled with battery storage, are capable of replacing any coal closures ahead of time.

“We’re exploring options for repowering our remaining coal units to use sustainable biomass and gas which we believe could help us to become coal free even earlier than the 2025 deadline,” Drax chief executive Will Gardiner said. 

Drax has converted three of its six power plant units to burn wood pellets and plans to convert a fourth unit to biomass later this year. Drax said it could replace the remaining two units with gas plants and up to 200 MW of battery storage. 

You can track the live mix of renewables, fossil fuels or imports used in Britain’s energy mix through the University of Durham’s website at www.durham.ac.uk/dei/dashboard