Britain goes coal free for two months: what this might mean for your energy bills

This milestone in Britain’s energy production could lead to a rise in popularity for green energy tariffs

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Last week Britain passed a significant landmark in its energy generation. The country has officially gone coal free for two months. The UK’s main coal power stations began shutting down as Britain went into lockdown, with the final generator at Yorkshire’s Drax plant coming off the grid at midnight on 9 April. The current coal-free period has now beaten the previous record set in May 2019 of 18 days, six hours and 10 minutes.

Alongside this comes the news that it has also been one of the greenest periods in Britain’s energy production history. Demand for renewables soared in May, and so far this year they have produced more power than all other fossil fuels combined. 

If you're thinking about switching to a green energy supplier, now is a good time to do an online energy comparison. Most of the country's energy suppliers have some form of green tariff available for customers. And many suppliers are now actively pushing these tariffs in the wake of rising demand, with one - Octopus - even paying its customers to use electricity following a surplus of green energy. 

Contributing factors

The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, played its part in this record-breaking coal-free run. Lockdown has seen the overall demand for electricity in England, Wales and Scotland fall significantly – Northern Ireland is not included as it’s not on the National Grid. 

However, another notable cause is that we have more means of harnessing green energy rather than relying on coal, thanks to major investments in green facilities over the last decade. For example, the UK currently has the world’s largest single wind farm in operation, located off the Yorkshire coast.   

On top of this, very windy weather in March and April, and unseasonable amounts of sunshine in May, were also key contributing factors. So much so, the carbon intensity of the Grid fell to its lowest-ever levels.

What this means for energy bills

We can only speculate right now on exactly how consumers - and household bills - might be affected by this in the long run, especially as we’re only just starting to ease some lockdown restrictions and the country's energy demand remains low. However, given that green energy is seeing continued investment, coal plants are being phased out and the Government has zero-carbon objectives to meet, it’s likely we’ll continue to see a shift towards a preference for greener tariffs.

Should this be the case, we could see prices increasing for tariffs that only use low percentages of renewable energy, or such deals being phased out altogether. Equally, as more people switch to greener tariffs and the markets become less competitive, better energy deals on these may also start to disappear. 

This, again, would mean that using an energy comparison service like ours to find a greener tariff - or even a deal with a better mix of renewables - sooner rather than later could be a smart move. 

Exactly which way the price of green energy goes remains to be seen. But as lockdown restrictions largely remain in place, the coal-free run looks set to continue. And so does the demand for renewable energy. 

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