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Britain’s Rapidly Disappearing Power Stations

November 15, 2015

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The LCPD has since been superseded by the EU Industrial Emissions Directive, enacted in 2010, which aims to tighten air standards further.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.

Full story



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.

  1. Ant permalink
    November 15, 2015 4:14 pm

    Ironbridge (eon) is closing next week according to the Shropshire Star.

  2. markl permalink
    November 15, 2015 4:48 pm

    At least you won’t have to say “the last one out shut off the lights”.

  3. Ben Vorlich permalink
    November 15, 2015 4:54 pm

    Amber Rudd is perhaps starting to believe her own lying eyes rather than listening to the nonsense coming from DECC

  4. November 15, 2015 5:22 pm

    It is already too late for nuclear. Under best circumstances (certainly not Hinckley) construction time is around 7 years. UK’s only option is natural gas fired CCGT, lead time 3 years, unless new coal is permitted.
    But you have to have the natural gas. North Sea is declining, not hrowing. And UK has not even begun exploratory fracking, let alone actually developing shale fields and pipelines. Pennsylvania’s Marcellus has been under development for 5 years, and is only now starting to make major supply contributions. Texas’ Eagle Ford and Barnett and Permian were easy, since conventional natural gas infrastructure was already in place. Rudd needs to stop talking and start building, before the lights go out.

    • November 20, 2015 3:53 pm

      There is also the 4-8GW of dedicated diesel-fuelled STOR capacity they are building.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    November 15, 2015 5:28 pm

    Perhaps politicians & the public would have less objection to UK coal-fired power stations if the BBC used images similar to the one you chose, rather than the emotive propaganda images they prefer – such as:

    • Billy Liar permalink
      November 15, 2015 6:03 pm

      Unfortunately, most people in the UK today are too ill-educated (eg PPE at Oxford) to know that the BBC picture images only water vapour.

  6. November 15, 2015 6:30 pm

    Coal is a big issue in the debate about climate change and I guess it will stay that way for at least some years from now on. The renewables are also on debate, since some of them seem not to be so climate friendly as people expected to be or as they were presented. I’m speaking aout the offshore wind turbines, for example….

    • Sarah Ferguson M.I.E.T. permalink
      November 15, 2015 7:14 pm

      Interestiongly, one of the most fervent climate change/one world gov addicts, George Soros, is building up a position in shares of coal mines. I wonder why? Does he know something we don’t?

      • markl permalink
        November 15, 2015 7:31 pm

        Sarah Ferguson M.I.E.T. commented: “….Interestiongly, one of the most fervent climate change/one world gov addicts, George Soros, is building up a position in shares of coal mines. I wonder why? Does he know something we don’t?….”

        Yes, I wonder about his moves as well. Perhaps he sees the attempt to stop the use of fossil fuels as folly and wants to be “in” when the door slams shut? Or he’s going to shutter the operations? Whichever way it goes I’m sure it bodes poorly for the people. He’s a class A creep with no redeeming values.

      • November 17, 2015 6:08 am

        I wouldn’t be amazed….

  7. Simonj permalink
    November 15, 2015 6:30 pm

    Hi Paul

    The National Grid believe the 11th of January 2016 is the day the lights will go out.

  8. Retired Dave permalink
    November 15, 2015 6:42 pm

    I see Amber Rudd is getting rid of people at DECC

    Perhaps she is going to burn them at Drax??

    • Joe Public permalink
      November 15, 2015 7:13 pm

      A better location because of its tailor-made emissions-control system, could be here:

      • Retired Dave permalink
        November 15, 2015 7:42 pm

        Reminds me of the late 70’s / early 80’s when they used rubbish to generate heat in the Coventry area and ended up having to buy rubbish from other councils in the Midlands (and transport it) as they had miscalculated how much they needed to fulfil the contract for the heat. I have it mind that they supplied the heat to the Rootes car factory – oh dear I am showing my age now.

        Do a lot of people die in Redditch Joe or will they be looking for a job lot of sceptics to burn??

      • 1saveenergy permalink
        November 16, 2015 12:03 am

        That’s a dead good idea

      • November 16, 2015 7:41 am

        An AD plant would be a better idea. Energy plus fertiliser.

      • November 16, 2015 8:02 am

        Whilst loading up the AD plant, add Davey, Millipede and the rest of them.

      • RogerJC permalink
        November 16, 2015 9:16 am

        Yes indeed the Coventry Incinerators (3 units I think) supplied steam to the nearby Rootes car assembly plant. Recently out of my apprenticeship I worked on the design and layout of those incinerators. It is true that rubbish had to be brought in from neighbouring areas but that was, I believe, always the plan (the specification even included the calorific value of a Brass Bedstead!). The HP steam raised by the incinerators was used to drive steam turbines for electrical generation and pass out LP steam sent to
        The company I worked for was, at that time, one of several British companies capable of building large boilers for Power Stations. It is now the only one left in the UK with this capacity. Due to various Governments energy policy no orders for Fossel Fired or Nuclear Plant have been placed for many years and the company had to survive for many years on overseas orders and UK maintenance, repair and refurbishment work. Unfortunately it is now owned by a South Korean company who bought it as it was one of only four companies in the world with advanced coal combustion technology. The South Koreans are now selling Boilers, made in Korea and a new factory in Vietnam, to power stations all over the world (China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea, etc) using this British technology.

        Another example of the opportunities successive governments have let slip through their hands due to our crazy energy policies over the past few decades.

  9. Sarah Ferguson M.I.E.T. permalink
    November 15, 2015 7:11 pm

    And those stupid cretins at the Institution of Electrical Engineers ( as it was called in its hey day) are spending their time being frightened by climate change and recommending renewables and solar to the government. There are practical power engineers who are appalled by the Council but, like politicians, the Council do not listen to the Members! In fact they don’t even ask the Members!

    By the way, they have changed the name to Institution of Engineering and Technology – wonder where electricity has gone.

    As a gentle postscript, the thinking members of the public will refuse to have smart meters fitted. The electricity companies are there to supply electricity – not – as they are now saying – to control demand. A smart meter and the new appliances with chips in them will enable the company to switch your washing machine off if you are taking too high a demand. I can’t decide whether it is more 1984 or Animal Farm!

    • Retired Dave permalink
      November 15, 2015 7:50 pm

      No Sarah, we don’t need engineers, just fairy dust and powdered unicorn horn. A friend of mine spent a working life in Grid electricity and tells me that Salford where he did his degree, doesn’t even have an electrical engineering department now.

      Britain still has some of the best scientists and engineers in the world – perhaps not enough of them, but at some point they will have to take back their Institutions from the nutters.

    • Dave Nunn permalink
      November 16, 2015 11:33 am

      I’m a member too and it is quite clear on the members fora that the grass roots is sceptical.

  10. Gerard permalink
    November 15, 2015 7:28 pm

    So much for democracy. unelected bureaucrats in Brussels control UK power!!

  11. soundarden permalink
    November 15, 2015 8:00 pm

    There is only one operational unit left at ferrybridge and that is closing in March next year.

  12. John F. Hultquist permalink
    November 15, 2015 8:39 pm

    There are several houses for sale in our little corner of the world (central Washington, USA) and our power comes from
    Rock Island Dam & colleagues

    47.344688, -120.097260

    We’ll keep the lights on for you.

  13. November 15, 2015 9:46 pm

    The coal fired power stations could easily be refurbished and their operating lives could be extended for 20 years at low cost. They could then burn the low-cost coal that is available and maybe save our industries.

    It will probably take the coming power cuts to trigger the recognition that this is both economic and the only proper economic option for the next decade. The gas turbine combined cycle alternative will cost more in fuel costs and stretch gas supplies.

  14. CheshireRed permalink
    November 15, 2015 9:50 pm

    Paul I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; closing down existing power stations before replacement stations are ready is extreme negligence. If this ‘policy’ delivers blackouts or brownouts it should be a resignation matter.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      November 16, 2015 8:11 am

      I don’t think resignation would cover it, 10 years in the slammer at a minimum with a loss of MP pension

  15. Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
    November 15, 2015 10:44 pm

    I wonder if any of these plants also produce district heating. If they do, then you could be short of heating when they close.
    In Denmark at least all powerplants deliver district heating, and it is more or less what keeps them going. The heating pays often more than the electricity.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      November 15, 2015 11:59 pm

      Dont think so, we’re not that advanced any more, we used to do it in the 1930s

    • RogerJC permalink
      November 16, 2015 10:25 am

      In all my working life in the Power Station industry I was never involved with a UK central generating station that had a district heating element. The Coventry Incinerators were low power small industrial units and a completely different design to the large boilers in central power stations. I seem to remember that the Dolphin Square apartments in London where built in the 1950’s to use steam from Battersea PS but this was an old fashioned range type power station with low pressure boilers.

      The major UK plants were designed to produce high pressure steam which drives the 1st stage of the turbo generator. The steam is then piped back to the boiler where it goes through a lower pressure reheater before it is used to turn the reheat (2nd) stage of the turbo generator. The steam is then converted back into water by passing it through a condenser. This final stage adds greatly to the plant efficiency by drawing the reheat steam into the turbine.

      The district heating units in Denmark tend to be less efficient as they only have a single generation stage ( a pass out turbine) and pass out the waste steam to the distric heating scheme. Consequently this type of boiler is designed to produce lower pressure and temperature steam and are not as efficient. Basic rule is higher the pressure and temperature the more efficient the boiler is.

      So the short answer is no it’s not really possible to covert existing units to district heating without a great deal of modification to the boilers, replacement of the turbine and investment in the district heating system.

      • Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
        November 19, 2015 5:05 pm

        “The district heating units in Denmark tend to be less efficient as they only have a single generation stage ( a pass out turbine) and pass out the waste steam to the distric heating scheme”
        The answer is both yes and no.
        They produce less electricity, but the waste heat is then used for heating.
        In that way 80 to 90% or more is used in relation to 40-50% for the most effective power station. Denmark is so obcessed with the system, that they have build small district heating units (500 to 3000 customers) around N-gas motors with electric generators. In that way the heating was considered “waste heat” and almost for free.
        The heating was cheeper than private boilers, but the investments very high.
        Now with lower market price for electricity, (lower than the N-gas for the production) they face some problems. Especially that they get a production fee for the electricity, and it runs out in the future.
        The story is indeed very complicated and a mix of reason and legislation.

  16. Dave Ward permalink
    November 16, 2015 1:31 pm

    @ Svend Ferdinandsen & RogerJC

    The proposed “Generation Park” straw burning power station for Norwich (home of the UEA, who are one of the major backers) is intended to provide district heating – or so they hope… The following page doesn’t give much technical detail, but there is to be a gas fired boiler solely to back-up the heating, in case the main plant breaks down, or needs maintenance:

  17. November 16, 2015 4:29 pm

    Nottingham and Sheffield have district heating schemes based around their incinerators. The politics of district heating and the short heating season have historically made these unattractive in the UK. However, with the appropriate massive subsidies……….

  18. Ant permalink
    November 16, 2015 7:29 pm

    Apropos the Coventry scheme importing rubbish, when Shropshire’s Shrewsbury incinerator started uo they had to stop the all-important cardboard recycling because th contract carries penalties if there isn’t enough burnable rubbish…

  19. Ant permalink
    November 16, 2015 7:34 pm

    Another apropos, smart meters this time; these will be fitted with the incoming mains, it will be illegal to screen – tinfoil or whatever – even if it’s right up by your bed- head!

    • Dave Ward permalink
      November 16, 2015 9:42 pm

      Re Smart Meters – What is your source for “it will be illegal to screen” please?

  20. Ant permalink
    November 18, 2015 10:12 am

    Hello Dave, EPE (Everyday Practical Electronics)

  21. November 20, 2015 3:58 pm

    Re. district heating:

    In 2005 the Government had an Ahlstrom gas turbine CHP system installed in the bowels of the MOD building which is capable of producing 4.7MW of electricity and 9MW of heat. Normal fuel is gas with the ability to run on 35 sec oil in the event of supply interruptions.

    The system, now operated by a subsidiary of French energy group GDF SUEZ, supplies electricity to 18 government departments in Whitehall, including DECC, Downing Street and the Treasury, with heat being circulated through a 12km network of insulated piping to keep our lords and masters nice and warm.

    Switching on the system in 2005 the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, John Healey MP, said:

    “This is the largest energy-saving combined heat and power plant in the Government estate which not only provides heat and light across Whitehall, but also reduces carbon emissions and saves money.

    “CHP is making a key contribution to the Government’s drive to promote energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions and the very fact that Whitehall uses such a system reflects the Government’s continuing commitment to tackling climate change.” (Government press release, 25 Oct 2005.)

    In the 1980s government was keen on following the Danish example of integrated CHP plants which generated reliable electricity from gas or biomass while improving their thermal efficiency by using otherwise wasted heat to provide district heating.

    By 1996 the first government strategy document on CHP was published. In June 2000 the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s report ‘Energy – The Changing Climate’, was published. This set us on the path to a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which was, in 2008, to become the 80% commitment which signalled the demise of CHP.

    In 2002, Environment Minister Michael Meacher announced the Government’s commitment to CHP and introduced changes to the Climate Change Levy to support the technology. Later that same year, Mr Meacher was telling MPs that his department was developing a CHP Strategy, which would set out the measures needed to achieve a target of at least 10GW of “good quality” CHP by 2010.

    In 2007, Defra published ‘Analysis of the UK potential for Combined Heat and Power’, which foresaw a potential 16GW of electrical genating capacity by 2015 – nearly a quarter of Britain’s peak demand – with a further potential for 21.5GW of district heating.

    This potential was never realised. Between the second and third reading of the 2008 Climate Change Act, the 60% cut in CO2 emissions was jacked up to 80%, and made into a statutory requirement. This effectively killed large-scale CHP: only very low carbon renewables, nuclear and CCS-abated coal and gas could meet the threshold.

    Ironically, organisations such as Greenpeace were voluble in their support of Danish-style CHP until 2008, telling us that there could be up to 16GW more industrial CHP, the equivalent of 8 nuclear power stations. Within a few years Greenpeace, as well as occupying coal plants and protesting against nuclear, were shutting down the HQ of Centrica, owner of British Gas, in protest at the UK’s use of gas.

    Anyway, it is comforting to know that Whitehall will not be affected if electricity supplies go down due to lack of reliable generating capacity this winter.

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