UK fires up old coal plants to prevent power cuts

Two coal-fired units at the Drax power plant are prepared for boosting the UK’s grid if required

Big Zero Report 2022

Emergency plans to fire up old coal plants have been triggered by National Grid as cold weather sparked fears of a supply shortage.

Two coal-fired generation units at Drax power station in Yorkshire have been instructed to be warmed up and ready for potential usage today.

In a statement last night, the National Grid ESO said: “This evening we have issued a notification to warm the winter contingency coal units.

“This measure should give the public confidence in Monday’s energy supply. This notification is not confirmation that these units will be used on Monday, but that they will be available to the ESO if required.”

It is the first time any of the standby coal power units have been asked to warm up since the government asked companies to delay their closure to support the grid’s resilience.

The ESO has entered into winter contingency contracts with two units of EDF’s West Burton A, two units of Drax and one of Ratcliffe – the units contracted are expected to be dispatched at the request of the ESO, in cases when all commercial options within the Balancing Mechanism are exhausted.

It is estimated that these contracts will cost up to £395 million, subject to the procurement of coal.

The system operator continued: “The ESO as a prudent system operator has these tools for additional contingency to operate the network as normal and the public and the public should continue to use energy as normal.”

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