Britain’s Rapidly Disappearing Power Stations
By Paul Homewood
Eggborough Power Station To Close Next Year
As recently as 2010, the UK had 23 GW of coal fired capacity, accounting for a quarter of total generating capacity. By the end of last year, this figure had declined to 20 GW (incl co-firing / converted to biomass), and the closure early next year of Eggborough and Longannet will slice off another 4.2 GW.
Most of the capacity lost to date has been the result of the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive. Plants which opted out of this were required to close by the end of 2015.
The LCPD has since been superseded by the EU Industrial Emissions Directive, enacted in 2010, which aims to tighten air standards further.
According to DECC:
Article 33 of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) allows operators of certain qualifying large combustion plants to opt-out of specific requirements of the IED under a Limited Lifetime Derogation (LLD). Article 33 operates from 1 January 2016 until 31 December 2023, during which time large combustion plants may be exempted from compliance with the emission limit values referred to in Article 30(2) of the IED. Where the LLD is taken, the whole of a plant must be subject to it.
Operators must submit a declaration to the competent authority by 31 December 2013 if they wish to take the LLD, specifying the plant or plants it is to apply to; declarations after that date will not be valid. Declarations are binding with effect from 1 January 2016; an operator may withdraw a declaration at any time before then.
The LLD restricts participating plants to no more than 17,500 hours operation starting on 1 January 2016 and ending no later than 31 December 2023. During this time, these plants must continue to comply with the other requirements of the IED, for example that the emission limit values (ELVs) applied to the plant do not exceed those which applied on 31 December 2015 and reporting obligations are met. The Article 33 derogation cannot last beyond 31 December 2023 and all derogation plants will be required to close by this date at the latest. The derogation can finish sooner than this date in the event that the plant has closed.
Effectively the only way for a plant to leave the LLD and change its status under the IED is to close and reopen as a new plant. In this event, the plant would be treated in the same way as a new build plant i.e. it would be subject to the Annex V part 2 ELVs set out in the IED and would also be subject to Best Available Techniques (BAT) requirements which would be applied to new power plant.
The following coal plants have notified The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of a Limited Lifetime Derogation “LLD” (opt-out) undertaking:
Put simply, these are the plants which will be forced to close by 2023. As we know, Eggborough has already announced closure next March. (My understanding is that Longannet would also be on this list, but comes under the Scottish Govt, rather than DEFRA).
The other stations on the list, excluding Eggborough, account for 7 GW. This means the current capacity of 20 GW will drop the less than 9 GW.
How quickly this happens is a moot point. The LCPD has shown that power stations would rather use up their lifetime allowance as quickly as possible, so that they can shut down and remove costs. There is also the problem of rising carbon floor prices to contend with in future which would encourage early closure.
If these plants run at, say, 60% of capacity, which is well within capability, their allowance of 17500 hours would be used up in little over three years, in other words during 2019.
It is against this background that Amber Rudd has said that we need to start building new power plants pronto, as the Sunday Times reports:
Britain needs to build the equivalent of more than 25 large power stations to meet its power needs over the next two decades, Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, will warn this week.
She will say that the nation’s energy security will be under threat unless it starts replacing its old nuclear and coal power stations.
Rudd, who is attempting to regain the initiative amid criticism over her grip on the energy brief, will say that mismanagement by her predecessors plus “spiralling subsidies” for renewable energy have left people facing unacceptable costs.
She will also hint she wants a rethink on the government’s commitment to combating climate change, which legally obliges it to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the equivalent of 568m tonnes of CO2 in 2013 to less than 250m tonnes in 2032. This is seen as a challenge that could only be met by deployment of nuclear, wind and solar power, at a cost which, Rudd believes, would be unacceptable to consumers.
“The challenge for us now is to get back to a market that delivers secure, reliable and affordable energy for families and businesses,” she will say. “It means controlling subsidies, and balancing the need to decarbonise with the need to keep bills as low as possible.”
Her speech anticipates the fifth carbon budget report, being published later this month by the government’s committee on climate change (CCC), which will set out the huge cuts needed in greenhouse gas emissions alongside an expansion of power generating capacity from 68 gigawatts to about 100 gigawatts. One gigawatt is roughly the output of a single large power station.
With increasing competition from subsidised renewables, risks of carbon pricing and political uncertainty around decarbonisation, the future looks extremely uncertain for the remaining plants who have opted into the IED.
As for new capacity, the only gas fired plant being built is at Carrington, with a capacity of 880 MW. Projects at Knottingley and Sutton Bridge have a combined capacity of 3300 MW, but, although they both have development consent, it seems that no Final Investment Decisions have been made, and the earliest start up dates would be 2020.