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Temporary Reprieves For Fiddlers Ferry & Eggborough

April 1, 2016

By Paul Homewood


Thanks to Stewgreen for alerting me to this.




Fiddler's Ferry Power Station

SSE have secured a one-year contract covering one of the units at the Fiddler’s Ferry site in Widnes


Following the closure of Longannet and Ferrybridge coal power stations last week, there is news that the other two due to close, Fiddlers Ferry and Eggborough may have a temporary reprieve.


The BBC report about Fiddlers Ferry:


A coal-fired power plant earmarked for closure will remain open until March 2017, its owner SSE has announced.

The decision was made on Wednesday after a contract was secured by Fiddler’s Ferry in Widnes, Cheshire, to provide "ancillary services" to the National Grid.

The company previously said three of the four turbines would close by April.

The one-year contract covers one of three available units at the site, which employs 213 people.

Two other units will remain "online" as SSE seeks to enter the station’s capacity into market auctions.

The fourth turbine will be unaffected as it has a contract to provide "services to the electricity system" over winter 2016.

Martin Pibworth, from SSE, said the long-term future of the site "remains uncertain" but the firm was "pleased" to secure a 12-month contract, which starts on 1 April.

The 45-year-old plant has been loss-making for two years and in November the government announced the permanent closure of all coal-fired power plants by 2025 as part of plans to lower carbon emissions from the electricity sector.

The site provides two gigawatts of power to the north-west of England, which is enough to supply about two million homes with electricity.

A consultation with staff and stakeholders is ongoing, the firm said.


Eggborough Power Ltd reported in December that:


Eggborough Power Ltd has been offered a SBR contract from National Grid to provide emergency power during the winter of 2016/17.
Chief executive Neil O-Hara said: “We are currently in discussions with National Grid to fully understand their requirements.
“Entering into the contract would mean that production at Eggborough would not completely cease at the end of March 2016, and a number of jobs would continue to support generation.
“We will continue consultation with our employees and hold discussions with our suppliers and make a final decision in due course.  An SBR contract would extend the life of the power station and we will fully explore its potential.”


There are unconfirmed reports from the FT (paywalled!) that Eggborough have agreed to mothball the plant, but this is not confirmed on the company website.


Note that both plants only have a 12-month extension at the moment. The Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR) was, according to National Grid, developed to support National Grid in balancing the system during the mid-decade period when capacity margins are expected to tighten. SBR is targeted at keeping power stations in reserve that would otherwise be closed or mothballed. These services will act as a safety net to protect consumers, only to be deployed in the unlikely event of there being insufficient capacity available in the market to meet demand.

The SBR came into operation in 2014. 

It is not clear if Fiddlers Ferry’s “contract” is part of the SBR, or a stand alone one.

Either way, this is a sign of the desperation of the National Grid and DECC, at the sight of so much coal capacity closing.


The Capacity Mechanism is supposed to be the proper, long run solution to ensuring adequate standby capacity, but does not actually start up till the winter of 2018/19. In the meantime, it appears that panic stations are the order of the day.

None of this changes the dire need for a massive investment in new gas fired capacity, which looks as far away as ever.



As an aside, there has been much gnashing of teeth over potential job losses in the steel industry, particularly from the Labour party, who have been directly responsible for many of the problems.

There has been a deathly silence from the same people about job losses at coal power stations. Fiddlers Ferry and Eggborough, for instance, employ about 500 people between them. These jobs may have won a temporary reprieve for a year or two, but they will go eventually, along with those at Longannet and Ferrybridge, as a direct result of climate policy.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    April 1, 2016 6:44 pm

    I note Aunty reports “The site (Fiddler’s Ferry) provides two gigawatts of power to the north-west of England ……”

    If the north-west of England gets the ‘dirty’ power, does that mean the rest of us don’t need to pay a premium to the likes of EcoTricity for conscience-salving ‘green’ electricity?

  2. April 1, 2016 11:53 pm

    In Alberta, Canada, the anounced carbon taxes and imminent closure of coal-powered power plants has resulted in energy providers terminating their contracts with the coal plants – and turning them back to the State: someone stll has to provide the energy for the distributors to distribute, right?


    • April 2, 2016 12:01 am

      The government is shocked. Now they will pay themselves the taxes, as the State will.provide the needed but detested fossil fuel power.


      If there is only a profit in green energy, nobody is going to provide anything but green energy. When the crunch of additional energy comes, the government will have to provide it. And guess what? It will be coal, diesel and nuclear.

      So much for carbon taxes changing usage in Alberta. The Greens will be forced to face reality in Alberta and will become the proprietors of coal power.

      Talk about unintended consequences.

      • John F. Hultquist permalink
        April 2, 2016 3:33 am

        But quite predictable.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 3, 2016 10:14 am

      I found this series of articles about fellow Canadian province Ontario gave me a distinct sense of déja vu.

      Note the subsidy on exports to the USA, and the tripling of power bills.

  3. April 2, 2016 8:13 am

    ‘they will go eventually, along with those at Longannet and Ferrybridge, as a direct result of climate policy’

    Yes and no. A lot of the coal-fired power stations are 40-50 years old and can’t go on forever.
    Saying that, it would obviously be a lot better to build replacements – e.g. gas-fired plants -before closing them.

  4. Jack Broughton permalink
    April 2, 2016 8:23 pm

    Coal fired power stations were designed about a 30 year life, almost all have far passed that. With simple refurbishment most could go on for another 30 years easily, such were the over-design factors that were used in the 1960s.

    The excessive life of boilers and turbines has led to the demise of our power industry, the UK has virtually no large boiler or turbine manufacturing ability now: most fired power stations built in the last two decades have been imported from France, Germany and Denmark, albeit relatively small waste and wood fired units. Nuclear is at the mercy of our French friends.

    Even the “Green”, unreliables are all imported.

    Our politicians and civil servants have long been oblivious to this, i.e. since Thatcher released the hounds of asset-strippers and sold all the family silver.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 3, 2016 9:24 am

      We no longer produce the steel…

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