If you walked over Holborn Viaduct in central London today, you'd have no idea it was ever there. No signpost, no plaque, no memorial. But here, on 12 January 1882, the world’s first ever coal fired power station opened for business.
And 130 years since the Edison Electric Light Station at 57 Holborn Viaduct generated its first watts of power, coal ruled supreme.
Until now that is. Today, at precisely 3.12pm, the UK will have gone two weeks without burning any coal to generate electricity. Not a single lump. It’s the longest coal-free period since the industrial revolution.
“Coal was the backbone of the last industrial revolution – but this old technology is being beaten by wind energy, the powerhouse of our 21st century economy,” said Emma Pinchbeck, the deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK.
Renewables, mainly wind and solar power, are providing about a third of our electricity right now. National grid forecasts that 70% of our electricity could be from renewable sources by 2030.
Progress indeed. For which this government and its predecessors deserve some credit.
The energy minister Chris Skidmore said: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy we’ll continue to seize the opportunities of moving to a greener, cleaner energy system as we aim to become the first major economy to legislate for a net zero emissions economy.”
In order to avoid potentially dangerous levels of global warming that “net zero emissions” target is more important than ever. The government has until about September to legislate for it, according to their climate change advisors, the Committee on Climate Change.
The transition to a zero carbon economy won’t be easy. A lot of people still believe it won’t even be possible. But who knows, our dependence on fossil fuels might on its way to disappearing and being forgotten, just like 57 Holborn Viaduct.