UK government re-asserts position on complete coal phase-out

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The British government has not confirmed that it will be phasing out coal-fired power by 2023 but has acknowledged the decline of the fossil fuel and reiterated that it will be focusing on stimulating investment in lower carbon alternatives in order to bridge any prospective energy gap.

The department for energy and climate change was non-committal about the 2023 time frame mentioned in the Times but a government source told Power Engineering International, “the prime minister (right) has previously made it clear that existing coal-fired power plants in the UK should be phased out in the next 10 or 15 years.”
David Cameron
A DECC spokesperson 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 per cent in 2012 to 29 per cent 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.

The Times report stated that the government is pondering whether to close its remaining 12 coal-fired power plants and if such an announcement might be made prior to the forthcoming COP21 conference in Paris.

While plants fitted with carbon capture technology were said to be exempt from closure, there will be keenly felt implications for those such as Drax Group Plc, EON SE and RWE AG who may decide to convert coal plants to burn biomass, or fit them with costly carbon-capture equipment.

The official DECC statement went on to say, “Government is focusing on stimulating investment in lower carbon alternatives, keeping bills as low as possible for both hardworking families and businesses and ensuring our energy supplies are secure and reliable.”

Power Engineering International has asked DECC for more detail on the composition of lower carbon technologies they strategically define will compensate for the loss of coal power capacity.

DECC provided a standard general response, stating, “The Government takes security of supply very seriously and has worked with National Grid to put in place an effective plan which is flexible enough to adapt to individual plant closures."

In relation to carbon capture the department went on to state, "CCS is set to play a vital role in decarbonising the electricity sector and heavy industry. The Government remains committed to assisting the development of CCS in the UK.”

According to Bloomberg the government is still assessing what alternatives should be put in place in coal’s stead.

Coal’s share in the UK power generation market dropped to 30 per cent last year, from 36 per cent a year earlier, and several plants have closed down in recent years in the face of European Union regulations on air pollutants.

National Grid Plc estimates that under a scenario where the UK chooses to pursue green policies, coal-fired capacity without carbon capture plants attached will fall by more than 10 GW to 8.7 GW in 2021, before declining to zero by 2030. The amount fitted with carbon capture would be small according to their projections.

David Cameron has originally asserted the decision to phase out coal at the UN Climate Change Conference in New York last year.

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