EDF Energy has announced plans to shut down its last remaining coal-fired power station in the UK – as it eyes a larger contribution from nuclear to meet the country’s electricity needs.
The French company said the West Burton A plant, near Retford in Nottinghamshire, would be decommissioned from September 2022 – two years ahead of a government climate-based ambition for an end to coal-based power generation.
The current deadline is October 2025 but that appears set to be brought forward by 12 months.
EDF said the site, which houses four 500-megawatt capacity coal units, would stay open for the next 18 months only to meet its agreed commitments to the grid.
Coal-fired power made up around 1.6% of UK generation last year and use has been limited to ensure lights don’t go out in times of high demand or to make up limited capacity in the system.
EDF said the plant had produced enough electricity in its lifetime to have powered the entire UK for four years.
The decision means that only the fate of Uniper’s coal-fired plant at Ratcliffe on Soar is yet to be decided.
EDF is the company behind the next generation Hinkley Point C nuclear plant currently under construction in Somerset – and is pushing for a sister power station to be built at Sizewell in Suffolk.
It argues nuclear must be part of the energy mix because renewables, such as wind and solar, offer no guarantees in terms of capacity.
Matt Sykes, EDF’s managing director for generation, said: “With EDF’s power generation strategy firmly focused on nuclear and renewables – and in this key year for UK leadership on climate change – we now believe it is the right time to provide clarity to our employees and all those connected to the site.”
The decision leaves 170 jobs at risk though EDF hoped to redeploy some of those affected.
The company said at least 50 people would be retained to work on the decommissioning.
A joint statement by unions said: “Today’s announcement brings welcome certainty to the dedicated West Burton A workforce about the future of the station.
“With government policy to close all UK coal generation by 2024 we knew it had a limited future so we have been working alongside EDF to understand the implications for West Burton A and to prepare colleagues for the future.
“Knowing the date of closure allows people to make plans. Enabling a ‘Just Transition’ away from coal generation is very important for the unions.”