Guest blog from new DPA Assistant Editor: Coal & COVID-19 – The road to recovery...

Author : Sophia Bell | Assistant Editor | DPA

01 July 2020

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Read this guest blog from new Assistant Editor over at sister title, DPA, Sophia Bell on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the environment.

A version of this guest blog first appeared in the July 2020 issue of DPA and on the DPA website.

First of all, I’d like to introduce myself to those who don’t know me: my name is Sophia and I’m the new Assistant Editor of DPA! I joined the team back at the beginning of March and am very much enjoying delving into the world of engineering.

For my first editorial column in DPA, I thought I’d investigate the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the environment.

At midnight on Wednesday 10th June, Britain passed a historic milestone: we officially achieved two months of coal-free power generation!

For the first time in UK history, renewables have accounted for more electricity generated than all fossil fuels put together. According to the BBC, so far in 2020, renewables have been responsible for “37% of electricity supplied to the network, versus 35% for fossil fuels.

This is a huge achievement, especially considering that just ten years ago, wind and solar accounted for only 3% of the country’s electricity production. A significant part of this latest breakthrough can be attributed to COVID-19. Since the enforcement of lockdown on 23rd  March, Britain has seen a sharp decline in demand for energy, resulting in the National Grid shutting down the four remaining coal-fired power plants.

With the ongoing devastation of the pandemic, the climate crisis may have taken a backseat in public consciousness, but the lockdown has paved the way for a greener future – demonstrating the feasibility of committing to a more environmentally friendly way of life.

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But I wonder, how will the UK’s approach to tackling climate change evolve now that we are entering an economic recession?

On 1st June 2020, the National Grid was among more than 200 leading UK businesses that called upon the government to implement a COVID-19 recovery plan in line with its net-zero emission targets.

We’ve estimated that the energy sector alone will need hundreds of thousands of new recruits as we work towards net zero and believe that an economic recovery with climate action at its heart will be key to unlocking these opportunities,” stated National Grid CEO, John Pettigrew.

This suggests that combating the climate crisis and ensuring economic recovery may go hand in hand. If other sectors similarly strive towards sustainability, more jobs could be created – which would ultimately help to rebuild the economy in the long term.

However, I feel that there is still a long way to go. The government will need to put in place a clear and practicable plan if we are to meet our net-zero targets.

Nonetheless, the move towards coal-free generation is certainly a step in the right direction in achieving a bright future that will aid the much-needed recovery of both the economy and the planet. The question is, will the UK continue to lead the renewable revolution, now that lockdown restrictions are being lifted?


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