Coal has been used as a heat source since the Roman era. Since then we have increased our reliance on this fossil fuel, until the early/mid 20th century when it finally started to decline. Today coal use is a fraction of what it used to be, and for good reason. It’s non-renewable and it’s polluting. Only recently UK power stations went for 125 hours without using any coal. This is a first since 1882, when the worlds first coal-fired power station opened in London. The subsequent 137 years that followed we have been dependant on coal.
Throughout the 19th century and first half of the 20th century coal was a dominant energy source. In 1900 it supplied over 95% of demand. By 1950 this figure was around 90%. By 1970 coal still accounted for almost half of the UK’s energy. Today coal accounts for less than 5% of energy.
Coal was often the cause, or at least, a key instigator in smogs, which occurred with regular frequency in London, when coal was in regular use as a heating fuel. The Great Smog of 1952 was a result of windless conditions, a period of very cold weather, and the use of coal fires in homes. This smog lasted around 5 days in early December of that year. Over 4,000 people died as a direct result of the smog, and over 100,000 were made ill. The impact of this smog gave rise to the Clean Air Act of 1956, which aimed to tackle such terrible events ever happening again.
By the mid 20th century coal’s days were numbered….
Coal Consumption & Workforce:
The consumption of coal in the UK, mainly for electricity, has gone from 287 million tones in 1913 to just 18 million tones in 2016. Employment in coal mines has dropped significantly. In 1920 around 1.2 millions were employed, 695,000 in 1956, and 247,000 in 1974. By 2015 only 2,000 people were employed in coal mining.
UK Coal usage: (DECC Data)
Employment from coal mining by year: (DECC Data)
The Coal Age is coming to an end….
The government have committed to totally ending coal supplies as a power source by 2025, in a move towards a much cleaner environment. Renewable power is taking a more prevalent role than ever before. In light of climate change, action needs to be taken. We are the first generation that is aware of the damage client change can and will cause, and the last generation that can do anything about it.
Learn more about our commitment to renewable and sustainable heating with our range of Ecodesign Ready Stoves.