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UK on course to remove coal power without new gas plants

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A new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has detailed how the UK can completely phase-out coal power without the need for extra gas plants.

In 2015, the UK Government pledged to remove all coal plants by 2025 to reduce carbon emissions in the fight against climate change, along with improving air quality.

The Coal to Clean report, published with climate think tank Sandbag, shows the strong progress being made towards this goal with 5 out of 7 coal plants already replaced.

Further closures of coal plants, representing 2.1 gigawatts of power, can be met with a mixture of renewables, energy storage, imports from Europe, and manging the grid more flexibly.

The analysts predict that by 2025 the growth in renewables will surpass 142 terawatt hours, the highest coal has ever produced in this century. Since that high in 2006, coal use has plummeted, reaching only 7 percent of generation last year.

The existing fleet of more efficient gas plants are also more than enough, according to the report. These plants make up over 10 gigawatts of capacity, which can fill in the gaps when renewables are not available, and will increasingly be used only during peak demand.

While this power will help in the medium term, WWF makes clear the government should also be planning for a full gas phase-out to meet climate targets.  

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.”

Charles Moore, Analyst at Sandbag, said the so-called ‘gas bridge’ was not necessary and that the lights could be kept on without new fossil fuel generation.

“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.”

Photo Credit: Chris Allen/CC

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