UK Once Again Brings Coal Power Plants Online as, Foreseeably, It Gets Cold in Winter

An East Midlands train service travels beneath the cooling towers at Uniper SE's coal
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A coal power plant that was due to be shut down last year is among those which have been ordered to spin up to cover a potential shortfall of energy generation in the UK this week, as wintry cold weather returns again.

National Grid ESO (Electricity System Operator) issued an instruction to two coal-fuelled power stations on Sunday and Monday, instructing them to get warmed ready for connection to the national grid on Tuesday to cover a potential shortage of generation.

The instruction does not guarantee the plants will actually be connected to the grid and provide energy, merely that they are stood by ready if needed to do so. The instruction is one of several times this winter the ESO has instructed otherwise mothballed coal-fired plants to warm ready for use, in each case the instructions coinciding with typically cold winter weather.

The otherwise mundane activity of the ESO balancing the grid and bringing up and standing down plants to meet demand takes on particular significance as now, as with the other occasions, among the generators notified are power stations that are either due or even past due being decommissioned completely. The fact that the plants now giving the UK grid emergency cover to support homes and businesses with electricity when other sources can’t keep up are due to be decommissioned and even demolished may raise serious questions about what the country will have on hand as backups in future winters, should the closures go ahead.

Breitbart London has approached the National Grid ESO to comment on these issues on multiple occasions but has yet to receive a reply.

The plants activated in the latest round of orders are West Burton and Ratcliffe on Soar, according to open-source data published by the grid. As previously reported, West Burton was one of the coal-fired power plants in the UK that was due to be completely shut down by September 2022 — five months ago — but was given a last-minute reprieve in a panic after the government realised its power strategy relied on Russia being a good-faith actor.

Ratcliffe on Soar power plant also operates only a cloud of imminent closure. One-quarter of the plant was due to have been decommissioned in September 2022, with the remaining three quarters by September 2024. While the first quarter has been given a stay of execution until 2024, the whole plant is still due to be closed then “in line with government policy”.

The fact these plants are being called back online to cover emergencies does not mean there is no coal being burnt to keep the United Kingdom’s lights on, however. Coal is part of the energy mix daily, if only a small one, reaching as high as nearly three per cent in recent weeks. This is dwarfed by other components of energy generation including nuclear at 15 per cent, wind at 24 per cent, and cleaner-burning but expensive natural gas at 35 per cent.


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