EDF and Drax both reject the idea of extending the use of coal power units

EDF has cited a range of operational and workforce-related factors that make it extremely difficult to extend the lifespan of West Burton A any further

Energy giants EDF and Drax have ruled out the extension of their coal power units that were used as backup plants in case of high energy demand.

Yesterday, ELN reported that the electricity system operator received a letter from the Energy Security Secretary to explore the procurement of winter contingency contracts, for additional capacity over the 2023/2024 winter.

EDF said as per the agreement reached last year, the two remaining units at West Burton A coal-fired power plant in Nottinghamshire will cease operations as scheduled on 31st March 2023.

The company confirmed that the station and its workforce provided 400MW as an emergency standby option for winter 22/23, as per the request.

However, it said extending the life of West Burton A has proven to be a significant challenge due to a number of operational and workforce-related reasons.

It explained: “For example, retaining suitably qualified and local personnel to ensure safe operation was a major challenge last year and, looking forward, becomes untenable as many of the workforce have stayed on well beyond planned retirement dates already.

“Approximately half the staff are retiring by Q2 this year. Notices have already been given for around half of these and they leave early April. This includes a large part of the station leadership team.”

“West Burton A has been a terrific servant for UK plc over the 57 years it has supplied electricity and we owe it to the people who work there, and those that rely on it indirectly, to bring further clarity to their futures.”

A Drax spokesperson told ELN: “At the request of the government, Drax agreed to temporarily delay the planned closure of its two coal-fired units to help bolster the UK’s energy security this winter. Our coal units will close in March 2023 when this agreement comes to an end.

“The extension was a complex staffing, logistical and engineering project after a significant reorganisation of the power station was already completed to bring almost 50 years of coal-fired generation to an end.

“With two major maintenance outages planned on our biomass units this summer, and a number of certifications expiring on the coal-fired units, the units would not be able to operate compliantly for winter 2023.”

A government spokesperson told ELN: “Our energy supplies are safe and secure, but like last year we are exploring options to keep remaining coal-fired power stations available to provide additional backup electricity if needed this coming winter as a contingency measure.

“Going above and beyond to ensure there are no issues next winter, we’ve written to ESO to request that they start the negotiations.

“Ultimately, the decision will be a commercial one for the coal generators and ESO will update the market in due course.”

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