Coal plants have been told to stay open longer due to energy supply fears

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Three companies have been asked to delay the closure of their coal-fired power stations, including EDF at its West Burton plant

The government has asked energy companies to delay the closure of coal-fired power stations in the UK.

The move follows concerns about a possible disruption of Russian gas supplies to Europe due to the war in Ukraine.

The government said it was exploring “a wide range of options to further strengthen our energy security and domestic supply”.

Factories were due to close in the autumn as the UK moves towards more sustainable energy production.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote this month to EDF, Drax and Uniper asking them to temporarily extend the operation of coal-fired power stations, which are used for emergency generation.

The UK gets very little electricity from coal, but produces a lot of electricity from gas.

A government spokesman said: “In light of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, it is only right that we explore a wide range of options to further strengthen our energy security and domestic supply.

“That’s why we are considering slightly extending the life of our remaining coal-fired power plants to provide additional backup power this winter if needed.

“We remain firmly committed to ending the use of coal power by October 2024.”

The government is “confident that electrical safety will be maintained”.

Energy suppliers would receive subsidies worth tens of millions of pounds, the Times reported, and these subsidies would be clawed back from energy bills.

French energy giant EDF, which has been asked to delay the full closure of its West Burton A plant in Nottinghamshire, said half of the plant began to be decommissioned in the summer of 2021 , and that the rest was “available over the past winter to supply electricity at peak times”.

“The plan is to start dismantling the last two units in early October 2022, and many processes have already been put in place to achieve this, including downsizing the site and reducing the coal stockpile,” he said. he declares.

“EDF has recently been asked by the UK Government to consider what it would take to make West Burton A available next winter and this remains under discussion.”

The three energy companies are in talks with the National Grid Electricity System Operator, which ensures the UK’s electricity supply meets demand, about how much subsidy would be needed to retain that coal-fired capacity.

EDF said it needed the electricity system operator to “offer acceptable terms” so that it could invest in the plant, buy coal and bear operating costs.

“We would be available under an availability agreement, like last winter’s, supplying only at peak times,” a spokesperson said.

Drax, which mothballed coal-fired power stations at its North Yorkshire power station in 2021, said it still plans to close them completely in September 2022, “but remains committed to supporting UK security of supply. United”.

He said this would delay their closure “remains under review” and that he is “carefully considering” the options.

Uniper, one of Germany’s biggest energy companies, said the government had asked it to explore the possibility of keeping its unit at the Ratcliffe power station, which is due to close in September 2022, open longer.

On Wednesday, Russia halted gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to pay for supplies in roubles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered “unfriendly” countries to pay for gas in rubles as part of efforts to prop up the currency in the wake of Western sanctions following his invasion of Ukraine.

The EU called the decision to halt Polish and Bulgarian supplies “an instrument of blackmail”.

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