The UK Government has published its implementation plans for the closure of unabated coal plants by 2025. The decision to close the plants was made in 2015 and was followed by a consultation on how this would be put into effect. (more…)
The government’s Clean Growth Strategy includes a wide range of measures designed to meet the UK’s legally binding commitment to cut emissions by 57% in the period 2028-2032, against 1990 levels. The newly published strategy forms the basis of carbon reduction policies, with a number of future actions and consultations designed to expand on these. Following a long wait for its publication, the new strategy has been widely welcomed. However, there is also criticism that it does not go far enough and concern regarding the planned use of “flexibilities”, which indicates that carbon offsets could be utilised to meet the UK’s commitments. Lord Deben of the Climate Change Committee said “We welcome the new thinking and ambition. We also recognise that the Government has identified areas where it will aim to do more and acknowledges there is work to be done to develop effective new policies”. (more…)
UK energy trend data for Q1 2017 has been published by the government this month. The statistics show a continued trend away from coal-fired generation, with gas and renewables accounting for an increased share of the energy mix. Coal accounted for just 11% of generation in Q1 of 2017, compared to 2014 when power output from coal stood at 30%. Coal-fired plants in the UK have been closing or converting to biomass in recent years as carbon taxes and emission restrictions continue to make coal uneconomic. (more…)
The government has published a consultation on the phase-out of unabated coal-fired plants by 2025. This consultation was one of several announcements relating to clean energy last week, providing investors with some clarity following over a year of policy uncertainty. Secretary of State Greg Clarke said, “My priority is to ensure that our country has the electricity it needs to meet all of our needs, at the lowest possible cost and to ensure that we decarbonise our energy supplies.”
The UK is committed to meeting stringent carbon reduction targets under both domestic legislation and international agreements. Because coal emits twice the level of carbon than gas for each kWh of electricity generated, its phase-out is an important element in meeting these targets. In addition, coal emits high levels of other key air pollutants, which are also regulated.
Coal generation made up less than 6% of power generation in Q2 of 2016, compared to 20% at the same time last year-evidence of the significant shift in energy policy to encourage low-carbon generation. According to data from BEIS (Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy), coal output fell by 71% from 15.9TWh in Q2 of 2015 to just 4.6TWh due to reduced capacity caused by the closure of Ferrybridge C and Longannet as well as the conversion of a unit at Drax from coal to biomass during the previous year.
Coal generation across 2015 was at its lowest since the 1950s because low-carbon policies have resulted in tough market conditions for coal-fired power stations. A total of 8GW of coal capacity has closed since 2010 and the closure of Logannet in 2016, which had been generating for 46 years, was the last source of coal generation in Scotland where renewables now make up the largest source of power, higher than both nuclear generation (33%) and fossil fuel generation (28%).
This fall in coal output was largely replaced by gas, which increased by 51% from 11.9TWh in Q2 2015 to 35.4TWh for Q2 2016 and brought about a 1.3% fall in CO2 emissions for the quarter. Gas generation emits less carbon per kWh of electricity generated than coal and therefore has comparatively lower carbon taxes to contend with. This, combined with an increase in global supplies of gas means it is a more competitive source of electricity. Coal output reportedly fell to zero on several occasions during May – the first time since 1882.
Capacity levels increased for both wind and solar although, overall, renewables output remained broadly unchanged at around 25% because average wind speeds fell and there were some outages at the biomass units at Drax. Solar panel installation has recently increased to reach 11GW of capacity but, as subsidies have now come to an end, this trend is not set to continue.
With 15GW left of coal plants still available to operate, a consultation on their future is planned for Spring 2017 since the government’s announcement that all UK coal-fired power stations will close by 2025 “as long as security of electricity supply is maintained”. The decision on coal will contribute to a new climate change and energy policy, designed to meet the UK’s target of a 57% reduction in emissions against 1990 levels by 2032. The recent decision to go ahead with the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant is the starting point for this. The government will face the need to balance security of supply with climate change targets while at the same time trying to keep control of costs to customers.
Provisional statistics for 2015 show that coal’s share of the electricity generation mix was, at 22.6%, 7.1 percentage points lower than the previous year, which can be attributed to the conversion of a unit at Drax power station from coal to biomass and the temporary closure of some plants due to market conditions. An increase in the carbon price floor from April 2015, as well as lower gas prices, contributed to coal generation becoming less competitive as a source.
The updated statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), published in April, also show that low-carbon electricity, that is, generation from both nuclear and renewable sources, made up 45.5% of the mix in 2015.