UK coal use drops to 135-year low

Once the engine of the Industrial Revolution rooted in the UK, coal is now less popular than ever as an electricity source.

According to Aurora Research, the fossil fuel contributed just 2% of total power generated in Britain in July. That's half the amount of coal used in the same month last year. For the whole of last year, coal use accounted for 9% of the total, versus 23% in 2015.

In April the UK ran a whole day without coal, a statistic often cited by anti-coal campaigners as a sign the fossil fuel's days are numbered.

“The decline in coal in recent years is partly as a result of higher carbon prices, and partly the growth in renewables,” Richard Howard, Aurora Energy’s head of research, was quoted in The Independent. ”In August coal load factors have been even lower than in July and the trend is continuing.”

The UK government has said it plans to cut coal use entirely by shutting down all coal-fired plants by 2025.

The closure of coal mines, including the last British underground coal mine in 2015, has meant a dramatic fall in greenhouse gas emissions for the island nation.

According to Carbon Brief, an energy and climate science website, with the use of British coal used for electricity at record lows, carbon emissions in 2016 were about 381 million tonnes. New Scientist points out that with greenhouse gas escapes dropping almost 6% in 2016, the UK's carbon pollution is at its lowest level since 1894.

New Scientist names cheaper natural gas, a hike in carbon taxes, expansion of renewable energy, less demand for overall energy, and the closure of Redcar steelworks in late 2015, as all factors resulting in cleaner air. Although, it points out that carbon from natural gas use rose 12.5%, and emissions from oil increased 1.6% due to lower gasoline prices, in 2016.

Apart from coal, UK electricity is also generated from natural gas (30%), nuclear (21%) and renewables (25%), according to 2015 figures provided by Energy UK, the trade association for Britain's energy industry.