Professor Phil Hart, Director of Energy and Power at Cranfield University, responds to the National Grid firing up a coal power station yesterday for the first time in 55 days, ending the UK's latest coal-free energy production streak.

Professor Hart said: “It’s inevitable that we still unfortunately have to occasionally rely on coal for our energy. Our energy security demands that consumers and business have access to electricity when they want it. People want to plug in a kettle and know that they can boil water at any point. With this behaviour unlikely to change, the demands on the energy system need to be robust to sustain our energy supply.

“We simply do not have enough or the right mix of renewable energy sources in the UK at the moment and we don’t have enough energy storage capacity. We are making great strides and the emissions that the energy sector produces have reduced and, even since last year, our dependence on coal has dropped dramatically.

“However, days like yesterday expose the frailties that still exist within our energy system. Wind power, which has been responsible for a lot of our transition towards a low carbon energy system, barely produced yesterday as the wind just wasn’t there. In contrast, solar performed very well and meant we didn’t need to use even more coal than we did. However, we didn’t have enough solar to meet the demand and, therefore, the National Grid had no choice but to fire up the coal power plant.

“If we want to turn our back on coal forever, we need to continue to use natural gas as a transition fuel as we build up the scale and mix of our renewable energy technologies and invest in energy storage both at a local level and a centralised level, giving us flexibility in the energy system for when nature can’t provide.”

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.