The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, is said to be preparing to announce a deadline for the closure of all UK coal fired power generators in time for the United Nations climate change summit in Paris this month; according to press reports.
It is suggested that all the existing coal fired power stations in the UK will be forced to either convert to an alternative fuel source (such as biomass), install carbon capture and storage equipment or close by 2023. According to trade association Energy UK, coal generated about 30% of UK electricity in 2014, coming in higher than nuclear and renewables. Ten coal fired power stations remain operable currently in the UK.
In September, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, responded to a question asking about anticipated closure of coal fired stations, with the response: “We expect the role of unabated coal in the UK’s electricity mix to decline as a result of deployment of low carbon alternatives, the cost of generation and the investment needed to meet new pollution abatement standards. The Department’s analysis shows that unabated coal is expected to account for around 1% of total UK generation by 2025.”
DECC has not yet confirmed any deadline but has said: “While fossil fuels have a role to play in meeting our energy demands, evidence shows that coal as a percentage of total generation has fallen from 40% in 2012 to 29% in 2014. This reflects the fact that a number of coal power stations have closed in recent years and we expect this trend to continue.”
If the announcement about the deadline proves to be true, there will be a significant generation capacity shortfall which begs the question: “How will the Government keep the lights on?”