Coal for Christmas? National Grid to pursue emergency supplies for next winter
The UK could rely on coal power plants again next winter to stave off supply shortages, announced National Grid.
It has been requested by the government to secure the procurement of winter contingency contracts for ‘non-gas fired’ capacity over the 2023/24 winter.
The energy body confirmed it has received a letter from the department for energy security and net zero, calling for it to explore an extension of the contingency contracts negotiated for the current winter.
This includes for five coal power units operated by Drax and EDF, which have been left in reserve with their lifespans extended over winter.
These ageing coal plants are already functioning beyond their initial closing dates.
National Grid will now begin negotiating with market participants to secure additional non gas-fired capacity over next winter.
Coal is the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, responsible for over 0.3C of the 1C increase in global average temperatures since industrialisation – with the highest carbon footprint of all energy types.
Currently, only two per cent of the UK’s energy mix is made up of coal, from Kilroot Power Station in Northern Ireland.
Its previously dominant role has been replaced with gas and wind power over the previous decade.
The UK has scrambled to stop blackouts over the turn of the year, amid a Russian supply squeeze on gas flows into Europe following Western sanctions after the country’s invasion of Ukraine .
Earlier this month, National Grid ordered two coal-powered units to provide supplies for the grid after a cold snap strained the UK’s operating margins.
This was the first time that the reserve coal units have been used to generate power under the contingency plans, and follows multiple start-up orders this winter – only for the units to be stood down each time hours later.
National Grid did not provide comment.