UK's last coal-fired power plant to close in September 2024

Uniper has announced plans to end generation at its coal-fired Ratcliffe-on-Soar power plant in September 2024, a month before the UK Government's legal requirement to do so.

Pictured: Ruth Edwards MP visiting the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in 2020. Image: Uniper

Pictured: Ruth Edwards MP visiting the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in 2020. Image: Uniper

The Nottinghamshire-based plant has four 500MW units. Under Uniper’s plans, one will come offline in September 2022 and the remaining three will be taken offline two years later.

Ratcliffe-on-Soar will be the UK’s last coal-fired power plant. EDF, which owns and operates the West Burton A plant in Nottinghamshire, is planning to close the facility by September 2022, while coal generation at Drax’s facility in Selby, North Yorkshire, will be closed by the same date but sooner if possible. These, at present, are the UK’s last three coal plants. Generation is legally required to cease by the end of October 2024.

Uniper said in a statement that it has briefed employees and the energy sector’s trade unions on the decision. The statement thanked staff past and present for “making a critical contribution to power generation in the UK”, adding that the company will seek out the “best opportunity to retrain and reskill the workforce”.

The future of the site, Uniper has stated, is to be decided following discussions with local and regional stakeholders. The business has stated that its intention for the site is the development of a “zero-carbon technology and energy hub for the East Midlands”. Such a hub could feature industrial businesses and manufacturing facilities, co-located with low-carbon energy generation capacity.

Uniper has already had planning permission approved to develop an energy-from-waste (EfW) facility, called the East Midlands Energy Re-Generation (EMERGE) Centre, on part of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station land.

Construction on the EMERGE Centre is expected to commence in late 2022. If progress it made to time, it will be fully operational by 2025. The facility will have a 49.9MW generation capacity and process up to 500,000 tonnes of waste that would otherwise have been sent to landfill annually.

Uniper’s overarching climate ambition for Europe is to ensure that all power stations are carbon-neutral by 2035. It had already outlined plans to exit coal in Germany; from September 2024, its only coal markets will be Russia and the Netherlands. Plans to deliver the 2035 climate coal centre around scaling the firm’s EfW, hydro and nuclear electricity generation; replacing gas with ‘green gas’ and low-carbon hydrogen; fitting carbon capture arrays at remaining gas sites and investing in hydrogen-powered transport.  

The news from Uniper comes shortly after widespread reports that the Asian Development Bank has received support from financial firms including Prudential, BlackRock Real Assets, HSBC and Citi for plans to accelerate the continent’s transition away from coal-fired electricity.

It also comes hot on the heels of the release of the UK Government's latest digest of energy statistics, which revealed that renewables accounted for a record proportion of the generation mix in 2020 as coal's share dropped to 1.8%. 

Sarah George



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