Innovative Energy Consultancy Ltd
Innovative Energy Consultancy Ltd

UK Coal Power Plant Fired Up as Gas Prices Soar

As a result of depletions in gas storage and supply, the UK’s National Grid ESO fired up an old coal power plant in early September to meet the country’s electricity needs.

The rise in gas prices coupled with unusually warm weather for this time of year has meant that generators throughout the UK have been struggling to meet their electricity needs for the last few months.

At the beginning of September, these factors came to a head as the National Grid ESO (the organisation responsible for balancing the UK’s electricity supply) turned to the EDF to fire up West Burton A coal power plant, which had been on standby amid a period of zero coal used for power generation.

Despite plans to phase out coal power completely by 2024, the UK has relied on at least some coal-generated power every day since our three-day coal-free period in mid-August and this reliance has been the catalyst for the reopening of the West Burton plant.

A National Grid spokesman said: “In balancing the electricity system, we take actions in economical order and not on the basis of generation type”, therefore coal has been chosen for power generation over gas since it is currently better value to do so.

Dave Jones, an electricity analyst at Ember, suggests this isn’t as worrying as it may first appear, stating: “No-one thought we’d use zero coal this year”.

“We’re going through a process where year-on-year you’re relying on coal less and less. As long as you know you can make it to that fixed date, which is still three years away, it’s OK. We’re well on track for that journey, probably ahead of schedule.”

However, despite Mr Jones’ optimism, The Nuclear Industry Association has stated that the decision to fire up a coal power plant to meet demand has highlighted the urgent need to invest in more nuclear plants.

The trade body’s chief executive, Tom Greatrex, claimed that without enhanced investment in nuclear power “we will continue to burn coal as a fall-back and fall well short of our net-zero ambitions.”

Read the full story here.

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