Second UK coal-fired power plant wins reprieve from closure

Published 01:48 on March 31, 2016  /  Last updated at 14:04 on March 31, 2016  /  EMEA, EU ETS  /  No Comments

UK-based coal-fired power station Fiddler's Ferry will remain open for an additional year after its owner utility SSE secured a contract to provide ancillary services to the country's power grid, the second such plant to win a reprieve from closure in as many months.

UK-based coal-fired power station Fiddler’s Ferry will remain open for an additional year after its owner utility SSE secured a contract to provide ancillary services to the country’s power grid, the second such plant to win a reprieve from closure in as many months.

One of the 2-gigawatt plant’s three units that were slated to close by the end of this month will now operate until at least Mar. 31, 2017, SSE announced late on Wednesday. No details of the agreement were provided.

“Challenging economic and environmental conditions for coal as the UK cleans its electricity mix mean that the longer term future of the site remains uncertain but we are very pleased to have secured this 12-month contract,” said Martin Pibworth, managing director of SSE’s wholesale division.

Scotland-headquartered SSE had announced the Fiddler’s Ferry closures last month due to substantial losses, blaming “challenging economic and environmental conditions for coal as the UK moves towards a cleaner mix of electricity generation”.

The site’s fourth unit is also due to run until at least the end of next winter.

“National Grid’s decision to extend support to SSE to keep Fiddlers Ferry open suggests there are very real concerns about the UK’s security of power supply for next winter,” said Alan Richards, head of risk management and research at consultants Utilyx.

“Even with this announcement the margins are still very tight, and we could be exposed to greater market volatility and spikes in the wholesale price. By 2017 we will have lost 60% of the coal capacity we had in 2010, and this is not being replaced quick enough.”

Britain’s Eggborough coal-fired power plant, which was also due to close this year, last month won a similar reprieve after signing a contract with National Grid to stay open for an additional year.  Both power stations are among the 10 biggest-emitting installations in Britain.

Fiddler’s Ferry was the eighth largest in 2014, pumping out some 6.86 million tonnes of CO2, according to EU data.  That represented more than 3% of the UK’s total emissions under the EU ETS that year. The plant’s CO2 output has been on the decline however, falling from 9.14 million tonnes in 2012.

SSE also confirmed that, following its success in securing this contract and “in view of the UK government’s current consultation on reforms to the capacity market”, the plant would participate in the UK’s capacity auctions for 2017-18.

French utility Engie last month said it would shut its Staffordshire-based 1GW Rugeley coal-fired power station this summer, following this week’s closure of the Longannet coal plant in Scotland.

The UK government is targetting the phasing out of all its coal-fired power plants by 2025.

By Mike Szabo – mike@carbon-pulse.com

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