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The Coal Unit Britain Can’t Afford To Close Down

Uniper will keep a unit at a coal plant in the UK available until the end of March 2023, six months after the original date for closing the unit this month. This extension is driven by the need to boost the UK energy supply through what will be a difficult winter.  

Uniper, which operates the Ratcliffe on Soar coal power station in Nottinghamshire, had originally planned to accelerate the coal phase-out in the UK and to close one of four 500 MW units at Ratcliffe as early as the end of September 2022—two years ahead of the date announced by the UK government for the coal phase-out.  

However, the energy crisis and soaring prices have made the UK and many other countries in Europe reconsider the coal phase-out as they seek to avoid blackouts and energy rationing this winter due to a lack of Russian gas supply and high energy commodity prices.

Earlier this year, the UK government asked Uniper to explore the possibility of keeping the unit at Ratcliffe, due to close in September 2022, open for longer.

“Following discussions with National Grid ESO, we’re pleased to announce that we’re able to support the Government’s request and help maintain energy supply security, in this unprecedented situation,” the German energy giant said on Thursday.

Uniper confirmed that the unit would now continue to be available until March 31, 2023, for dispatch by National Grid ESO and that it was also reviewing the potential for operation after this time. The company also plans to make the unit available until the September 2024 coal phase-out date, with the power station still set to close at the end of September 2024.

Coal accounted for 2.1% of British electricity production in early September, according to the latest available data from National Grid ESO. This compares with no coal use at all for UK electricity for two months in a row back in 2020.

On September 7, when coal generated 2.1% of British electricity, the biggest power-generating fuel was natural gas with a 48.8% share, followed by wind at 21.3%, nuclear at 16.6%, biomass at 4.9%, and solar at 4.3%, National Grid ESO figures show.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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