Britain turns to coal-fired power stations to avoid winter power cuts
Britain is turning to old coal-fired power stations as a ‘last resort’ in case other sources cannot provide enough electricity through winter as the country faces a wider energy crisis.
Several European governments have called for emergency power to be made available from coal-fired power plants that are inactive or about to close, due to falling gas flows from Russia following disputes sparked by his invasion of Ukraine.
Britain’s National Grid said it had signed contracts with power producers Drax Group and France’s EDF to extend the life of four coal-fired power units at two power stations for next winter.
Available capacity will only be used as a last resort to ensure security of supply if needed, the UK electricity grid operator (ESO) said, adding that negotiations were continuing with a third generator for a fifth unit at the coal.
“These contracts are only intended to be used when all trade options have been exhausted under the balancing mechanism,” the ESO said.
A total of 1,940 megawatts will be made available from two coal-fired units at EDF Energy’s West Burton A plant, which was due to close in September, and two at the Drax plant in Yorkshire, which has ceased its commercial activities last year. The rest of the Drax plant has been converted to biomass.
Other European countries are also turning to coal during the crisis. Kosovo’s energy ministry said this week that it was canceling planned power cuts for the time being because it had managed to get power from neighboring Albania, although it did not say how many time would last the agreement. Around 90% of Kosovo’s electricity generation comes from coal.
Albania, which depends on hydroelectricity, is facing a drought and therefore must also import energy.
Kosovo’s energy distribution company, Keds, was only getting some electricity from lignite-fired power plants and renewables, but consumption was on the rise.