The UK will close all its unabated coal-fired power plants by 2025, the government said on Wednesday, two years later than unsourced media reports said it was planning last month.
The government said it will consult stakeholders next spring over its plans to restrict use of coal plants by 2023 before a full closure.
The move forms part of a policy “reset” flagged by climate and energy minister Amber Rudd in a speech Wednesday that will prioritise energy security over emission reductions.
The plans would mean the UK’s ten remaining coal plants would be forced to convert to alternative fuels, fit CCS equipment or shut.
Coal-fired power provided around 28% of Britain’s electricity last year but many of its ageing facilities had been due to close over the next decade as they reach the end of their operating lives and amid costs from the EU ETS, the UK’s carbon price floor and pollution standards under the Large Combustion Plant Directive.
UK law already prevents the building of new unabated coal plants and its modelling had indicated that such sources could make up around 1% of generation by 2025, the middle of several scenarios.
An accelerated coal phase-out in favour of cleaner gas or renewable sources is likely to dampen demand for EU carbon allowances.
The ruling Conservatives have been under fire from climate campaigners for drastic cuts to renewable power subsidies such as onshore wind and solar amid their ongoing push to develop shale gas.
“Acting to end coal can help the UK recover credibility as a location for investment in clean technology. But if coal is simply replaced by gas the UK will continue its addiction to fossil fuels and is in danger of being left behind in the global clean tech race,” said Nick Mabey of environmental think tank E3G.
The government statement included parts of Rudd’s speech:
“Energy security comes first and I am determined to ensure that the UK has secure, affordable, and clean energy supplies that hardworking families and businesses can rely on now and in the future.
“We are tackling a legacy of underinvestment and ageing power stations which we need to replace with alternatives that are reliable, good value for money, and help to reduce our emissions. It cannot be satisfactory for an advanced economy like the UK to be relying on polluting, carbon intensive 50-year-old coal-fired power stations.
“Let me be clear: this is not the future. We need to build a new energy infrastructure, fit for the 21st century.
“Our determination to cut carbon emissions as cost effectively as possible is crystal clear and this step will make us one of the first developed countries to commit to taking coal off our system.”
On the EU ETS:
“Despite its flaws, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is exactly the kind of intervention that should be made at a European level where collective action is more powerful.
The UK has worked hard with others to get major reforms that are helping restore a more stable and robust price on carbon.
But I’m determined that we help deliver more this Parliament to restore the ETS to full health.”
By Ben Garside – firstname.lastname@example.org