UK may delay closure of coal power stations due to energy crisis

Government has contacted EDF Energy about keeping Lincolnshire plant open beyond planned 2024 shutdown

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Monday 14 March 2022 15:25 GMT
<p>Drax power station in Yorkshire is one of three coal-fired units still operating and due to cease operations in 2024 </p>

Drax power station in Yorkshire is one of three coal-fired units still operating and due to cease operations in 2024

The government is considering delaying the closure of some of the UK’s last remaining coal-fired power stations due to the impact of the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine.

The West Burton A coal-fired plant in Lincolnshire is scheduled to close this year, ahead of the 2024 deadline for all coal power stations, but government officials have approached energy company EDF to find out if the closure can be delayed and the power station kept online.

The move comes amid heightened concern about use of Russian gas in the UK, which accounts for up to 4 per cent of gas burnt.

The UK remains dependent on gas not to fire home-heating systems and for cooking, as well as for electricity. Some 37 per cent of electricity demand in 2021 met by gas power stations.

The rapid phase out of coal in the UK means around just 2 per cent of the energy mix is met by coal-fired power stations, of which there are now just three remaining.

As recently as 2012, coal accounted for 40 per cent of the UK’s power generation, which fell to 25 per cent in 2015 and 2 per cent by 2019.

EDF confirmed to The Independent the government had been in touch with the firm in relation to the timing of its closure, but for now it is still on track to close in September 2022.

A spokesperson for EDF said: “Half of West Burton A power station has been available to supply electricity during peak times over the winter; the other half commenced decommissioning last summer.

"The plan is to start decommissioning the final two units at the start of October 2022, and many processes have already been put in place to achieve that, including reducing the site’s staffing numbers and running down the coal stock.”

A government spokesperson told The Independent: “The UK remains committed to ending the use of coal power by 2024. We will be setting out plans to boost our long-term energy resilience and domestic supply shortly.

“The operation of UK coal plants is ultimately a commercial matter and we have made no formal request to EDF.”

Boris Johnson is also backing further renewable and nuclear expansion in Britain to help reduce dependency on imports of fossil fuels.

He is expected to outline an energy security strategy this week.

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