Two Aging UK Coal Plants to Shutter in March Despite Government Requests to Remain on Standby
Two aging UK coal plants will close at the end of the winter despite requests by the government to keep them running.
The plants were originally scheduled to shutter in 2022, but the government asked them to remain on standby through the winter of 2022 and 2023 to pick up the slack during the ongoing energy crisis prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The two remaining units at West Burton A coal-fired power station in Nottinghamshire will close as planned on March 31 2023, in line with the agreement signed last year,” Electricite de France (EDF), which operates one of the plants, said, as the Press Association reported.
EDF’s West Burton plant was only used once during the winter, during a cold snap on March 7. The other plant in limbo is a plant operated by Drax in North Yorkshire that has not been used yet this winter.
On Wednesday, the National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) revealed that the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero had asked it to make sure there were backup energy plans in place for the winter of 2023 and 2024, as BBC News reported.
“At our Operational Transparency Forum this morning we have confirmed receipt of a letter from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero requesting that we explore the procurement of winter contingency contracts, for additional non-gas-fired capacity over the 2023/2024 winter, that would otherwise not have been available,” the ESO said, as the Press Association reported.
Both operators, however, said that would not be possible.
“There are a number of workforce and operational reasons that mean extending the life of West Burton A again is very challenging,” EDF said, as the Press Association reported. “For example, retaining suitably qualified and local personnel to ensure safe operation was a major challenge last year and, looking forward, becomes untenable as many of the workforce have stayed on well beyond planned retirement dates already. Approximately half the staff are retiring by the second quarter of this year. Notices have already been given for around half of these and they leave early April. This includes a large part of the station leadership team.”
Drax also said that remaining open another year would be impossible and that it would also close its plant at the end of March.
“[W]ith a number of certifications expiring on the coal-fired units, the units would not be able to operate compliantly for winter 2023,” a Drax spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
In response, ESO said it could not comment on ongoing negotiations, BBC News reported.
“Ultimately, the decision will be a commercial one for the coal generators and ESO will update the market in due course,” the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said in a statement reported by BBC News.
Britain had already promised to close all of its coal-fired plants by October 2024 as part of its drive to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to address the climate crisis, according to Reuters. Coal is notorious for being the dirtiest fuel burned for energy, but its use has fallen dramatically in the UK in recent years, reaching lows not seen since before the start of the industrial revolution in 1757, as Carbon Brief reported.
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