Mar 29, 2023
EDF Says Aging UK Coal Plant Must Retire Before Winter
(Bloomberg) -- The UK head of Electricite de France SA said the company won’t be able to run an aging coal station next winter due to safety reasons, even as the government seeks to secure power supplies.
EDF’s West Burton plant in northern England — in operation since 1966 — is set to close later this year as utilities phase out their coal operations in the country.
“There is no way of providing a safe service, so we need it to be taken out of service,” EDF Energy Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Simone Rossi said at an event in Oxford. Younger coal stations owned by other firms should be able to step in, he added.
Over the past year, Europe has faced an unprecedented energy crisis as Russia curbed natural gas supplies to the region. Governments including the UK have sought to prolong the life of fossil fuel facilities to fill the gap in the near term, even as they seek to cut emissions over the long haul.
EDF, Drax Group Plc and Uniper SE all kept open facilities in a reserve this past winter, as part of a deal that was expected to cost British consumers nearly £400 million.
The reserve was only needed once: West Burton generated in early March when the grid’s system operator wasn’t sure it could safely match demand with supply available on the open wholesale market. Still, the government has asked for the reserve again next winter.
Read: UK Call for Coal Reserve Extension Looks Unlikely to Succeed
Drax, which aims to roll out its bioenergy with carbon capture technology, has said it will close its coal units this year. Uniper plans to shutter its units — which are all on the open market and not available for a reserve — only next year.
The Electricity System Operator would “absolutely like to see” a further reserve in winter 2023-24, but recognizes that coal-plant owners have limitations, said ESO Executive Director Fintan Slye at the same event, Aurora Energy Research’s Spring Forum.
The system operator is closely monitoring French nuclear power, which has been limited amid maintenance and unplanned outages. It’s also watching natural gas markets, including the risk of rising demand from Asia for liquefied natural gas, Slye said.
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