The decline of solid fuel

August 20, 2010

Coal had replaced wood and fueled the Industrial Revolution, but several factors such as the 1956Clean Air Act, the transition to diesel engines in the railway sector and the increasing mining difficulties, triggered a decline of its use starting in the middle of the 20th century.

The trend throughout the last three decades has been one of reduction in solid fuel use, especially in the domestic and industrial sec¬tors. The sharp drop in use in the early 80’s reflects the fall in oil prices as people switched to the cheaper alternative of oil based products, and the change in UK energy policy and the mass pit closures of 1984 – 1985 had a considerable impact, reflected in the graph.


© EMF – Data: Energy Saving Trust / BERR UK Energy in Brief 2008

  • Industries have cut solid fuel use by 24.9 Mtoe a year over the last 37 years.
  • Domestic usage has dropped by 25.2 Mtoe a year.

1956 Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act, implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in England and the Department of Health for Scotland, was the UK Parliament’s response to the great London smog of 1952, an unprecedented pollution episode which is held responsible for approximately 12,000 deaths. The Act’s aim was to reduce air pollution, notably by shifting domestic sources of heat towards electricity and gas, and by relocating power stations away from cities.


  • Energy Saving Trust
  • BERR UK Energy in Brief 2008

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