UK coal use drops 50 percent – but government risks gas lock-in

Dramatic new figures show UK coal use plummeted almost 60% from 2015 to 2016. In the same period, the price of bringing new European wind power online “more than halved”.

The figures, which were part of a report from Agora Energiewende and Sandbag, showed overall coal power production in Europe fell by over 10%, continuing an ongoing decline.

ClientEarth energy lawyer Susan Shaw said: “The UK is leading by example in Europe, with by far the biggest drop in coal usage. This bodes well for the UK’s official coal phaseout, which aims to take coal entirely out of UK energy generation by 2025.

“But the UK is also undergoing the biggest coal-to-gas switch in Europe, which presents two risks. First, that in outgrowing one fossil fuel, we lock ourselves into another. Secondly, that other European countries follow suit.

“Gas is a lower-carbon energy source than coal, but it will never be as clean as managing demand, investing in efficiency and switching to well-sited renewables. The laws the UK enacts to manage the transition from coal need to be decisive and progressive.

“Keeping coal as a fallback and making gas dominant would not be a forward-looking policy, nor would it give certainty to clean energy investors. We anticipate great leadership from the UK government. The rest of Europe is watching.”

The UK coal phaseout consultation closes on 8 February.

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Anna Jiménez Calaf