Fears of new winter energy crisis as Britain is left with just one coal power plant after talks to keep two more sites running fail
- National Grid’s ESO said that discussions with Drax and EDF had concluded
- The companies’ plants had been slated for closure ahead of last year, but agreed to stay open a little longer
Fears of a new winter energy crisis are mounting as Britain is left with just one coal power plant after discussions to keep two more sites running failed.
The National Grid said today that it had finished talks with Drax and EDF about keeping open West Burton A, in Nottinghamshire, and two coal-fired units at Drax’s plant near Selby, Yorkshire, after they stated that the sites would not be available.
Last winter, the companies were paid to keep these units on standby as a last resort to keep the lights on in the case of gas and renewable energy generation running out.
The companies’ plants had been slated for closure ahead of last year, but agreed to stay open a little longer due to the international energy squeeze sparked as Russia ramped up its long-running war against Ukraine.
But they were barely needed during the winter, and will now close down ahead of next winter.
Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar, in Nottinghamshire, will keep operating, but only on a commercial basis. It will therefore not be available as a contingency
The refusal of the two companies to keep the sites open means the National Grid will not be able to maintain this winter contingency in reserve again.
A third coal power station that took part last year, Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar, also in Nottinghamshire, will keep operating, but only on a commercial basis. It will therefore not be available as a contingency.
‘At the request of Government in March 2023, the ESO has undertaken discussions with the operators of two winter 2022/23 contingency coal plants to establish whether these arrangements could be extended for a further winter,’ the ESO said.
‘These discussions have now concluded. Both operators have confirmed that they will not be able to make their coal units available for a further winter and have begun the decommissioning process.’
The National Grid said today that it had finished talks with Drax and EDF about keeping open West Burton A, in Nottinghamshire (pictured), and two coal-fired units at Drax’s plant in Selby, Yorkshire, after they stated that the sites would not be available
Ministers had asked the National Grid to ascertain whether the coal plants would be available again and the company revealed earlier this month that it was in discussions about doing so.
Drax said it had decided against keeping the Yorkshire coal units running ‘due to a combination of technical, maintenance and staffing reasons’.
The National Grid will no longer be able to call upon a separate reserve of coal-generated power during incidents of system stress.
Last winter, Drax’s two units, West Burton A’s two units and one at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, generated a backup capacity of about 2.4 gigawatts when needed.
They were warmed up in seven instances but only used once, in early March. The contingency cost the Grid around £400m overall.
The Grid called on the Ratcliffe plant earlier this month during sweltering temperatures, as businesses cranked up the air conditioning.
Aerial view of Drax Power Station, located close to Selby, North Yorkshire
Once a mainstay of British electricity production, coal has become increasingly less important over recent years as it was replaced by renewable energy and cleaner-burning gas.
In 2017, Britain went for 24 hours without burning coal for electricity for the first time since the 1880s. By 2020 it reached a record 68 consecutive days without burning coal.
From October 1 of next year, the Government aims to put an end to coal power generation completely, largely by rendering it ‘uneconomical’ to generate.
However, ministers have dropped plans to enshrine a ban of coal power generation by that date in law, The Telegraph reported.
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