Just one coal-fired power plant remains operating in the UK ahead of winter, with National Grid again planning to encourage households to save energy during the coldest months.
Northern Ireland’s Kilroot Power Plant, operated by EP UK Investments, closed its last remaining coal unit last weekend.
This leaves Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar plant in Nottinghamshire as the only operating coal power station in the UK.
For now, Uniper has agreements for three of its four coal units at Ratcliffe to continue operating until October 2024 — with expectations the plant will then be wound down in line with government policy.
The units are operating on the open market, and are chiefly responsible for the 1.3 per cent of coal generation in the UK’s energy mix today.
This follows National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO) publishing its winter energy outlook last week, confident that there will be sufficient supplies to meet demand over the coming months.
This winter, ESO is predicting a capacity margin of 7.4 per cent — roughly 4.4GW — which is higher than last winter’s 3.7GW and broadly in line with previous winters.
A combination of factors have influenced the slightly higher margins for this winter, including more generation available alongside higher levels of battery storage.
However, the ESO has warned it cannot “completely discount risks” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a Kremlin-backed supply squeeze on the continent’s gas flows.
To ensure the network is prepared for a “wide range of eventualities”, households will be asked to save energy this winter once again to ward off potential supply shortages in exchange for savings on bills.
This is known as the ‘demand flexibility service‘, with both saving sessions in January this year providing customers with millions of pounds in savings.
A total 1.6m homes and businesses took part — saving 3.3GWh of electricity, sufficient to power nearly 10m homes.
The ESO has also confirmed the UK will not have five coal units on standby this winter, with EDF and Drax also winding down their coal operations.
Last winter, the former department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy asked the ESO to sign contracts with additional coal generation units.
The ESO warmed up two coal units in March to help meet demand after several earlier requests last winter, which were then pulled as generation came back online.
Craig Dyke, the ESO’s head of national control, argued that its report illustrates “the different position we find ourselves in”, compared with a year ago.
He said: “The energy markets across Europe have responded, bolstering gas and electricity storage and supplies ahead of this winter. Whilst this is reflected in slightly higher operational margins for this winter, we and the rest of the energy industry will as always continue to prepare for a range of potential eventualities, so that we are fully prepared for any changes in circumstances this winter.”