Britain's first coal-free day since Industrial Revolution

Britain went coal-free for the whole of Friday, generating all its electricity without using even one lump of the most polluting of all the fossil fuels.

It was the first continuous 24-hour coal-free period for Britain since use of the fossil fuel began.

The National Grid control room tweeted: "For the past 24 hours National Grid has supplied the UK's electricity without the need for coal generation as part of the energy mix."

As gas and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power have become more popular, the use of coal has decreased, accounting for just 9% of the electricity generated last year.

Many coal plants have now closed or switched to burning organic matter such as wood pellets.

The Government has pledged to phase out coal from the system by 2025 as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions in the UK.

The National Grid previously achieved a 19-hour coal-free stretch one weekend last May.

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Cordi O'Hara of the National Grid said: "To have the first working day without coal since the start of the industrial revolution is a watershed moment in how our energy system is changing.

"The UK benefits from highly diverse and flexible sources of electricity. Our energy mix continues to change and National Grid adapts system operation to embrace these changes.

"However, it's important to remember coal is still an important source of energy as we transition to a low carbon system."

Hannah Martin, from Greenpeace UK, called the new record "a watershed" in energy transition and said such an achievement would have been "unimaginable" a decade ago.

She said: "It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritise making the UK a world leader in clean, green technology.

"They will need to get on with the coal phase-out plan and recognise the economic potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency."

Industry body RenewableUK's executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: "The change in how we produce energy is the industrial revolution of this generation: as the age of coal passes, the renewables boom is well under way.

"Coal has been part of the UK's past, but we should celebrate the move away from dirty and old fashioned technology to a modern, clean energy future."

Key moments in British coal

:: 1760 - 1840 Coal production dramatically increases during the Industrial Revolution, fuelling furnaces and steam engines.

:: 1815 The Davy safety lamp is invented, reducing the danger of explosions in coal mines.

:: 1825 Railways open, allowing for mass transportation of coal.

:: 1842 The Coal Mines Act prohibits all underground work for women and girls, and for boys under the age of 10. The first electric coal cutting machine is also introduced.

:: 1913 Peak UK coal production, with more than 287 million tonnes of coal mined and the industry employing 1.25 million people.

:: 1945 The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is formed.

:: 1947 The coal industry is nationalised.

:: 1950s - 1970s Around 100 North East coal mines close after being stripped of their coal, or declared uneconomic.

:: 1970s - 1980s A number of national strikes take place initially over pay and then over threatened pit closures.

:: 1984 Margaret Thatcher announces plans to close 20 mines resulting in a year-long miners' strike, involving more than half the country's miners. Union president Arthur Scargill leads the strike, during which police are criticised for using excessive force against picketing miners.

:: 1985 The strike ends, but is unsuccessful in stopping the closures. Numerous pit closures follow over the coming years.

:: 1994 John Major privatises British Coal.

:: 2001 UK coal production is exceeded by imports for the first time.

:: 2015 Six underground mines and 24 surface mines remain in Britain, producing over 8.1 million tonnes of coal and employing a total of 2,046 people.

The UK's last deep coal mine, Kellingley Colliery, in North Yorkshire closed in December 2015.

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