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Closure of UK coal plant to be delayed to prevent blackouts

30 August 2022

The closure of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station in Nottinghamshire, UK is set to be delayed as part of the government’s efforts to prevent electricity blackouts this winter. The National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) is nearing an agreement with operator Uniper to keep operations at the site online.

Image: Wikimedia/User: MaltaGC
Image: Wikimedia/User: MaltaGC

The agreement is the third in a series of deals that the ESO has made in order to have more coal power on standby if needed in the coming winter months. The Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng asked the ESO in May to strike a deal with Uniper, Drax, and EDF to slow down the closure of their UK coal-fired power stations after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Uniper had been set to decommission one of its 500-megawatt units at the Ratcliffe-on-Soar site by the end of September ahead of closing the remaining three units at the plant in 2024. However, Uniper will now receive a fee to delay the decommissioning and keep its units on standby in case extra electricity capacity is required.

The deal is similar to those that the ESO made with Drax, to keep two 570MW units operating at its site in Yorkshire, and with EDF, to ensure two 400MW units remain on standby at its West Burton A plant. The ESO said that the upfront cost to keep these four units is expected to be in the region of £220m to £420m, although this may rise depending on how much coal will be procured.

According to the Guardian, the UK government had hoped to avoid having to use the coal plants and that the agreements are part of a contingency plan.

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