The UK’s previous target date of 2025, for the complete phase out of ‘unabated’ coal-fired power generation, could be moved forwards by 1 year, to 1st October 2024. This refers to plants without any technologies to substantially reduce its CO2 emissions, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Once a major part of the country’s energy mix (70% in 1990), the remaining coal-fired power plants now make up around 3%, following a 91% reduction between 1990-2018 (230-17TWh). Those remaining include units 5 and 6 at Drax (1.3GW, North Yorkshire), Kilroot (560MW, County Antrim), Ratcliffe-on-Soar (2GW, Nottinghamshire), West Burton A (2GW, Nottinghamshire), Fiddlers Ferry (1.5GW, Cheshire) and Aberthaw B (1.5GW, Wales). The latter two are expected close this quarter and West Burton A could close as early as 2021, when its current contract ends.
This final shift away from coal towards gas and renewables has followed an increase in the carbon price floor in April 2015, from £9 to £18 per tonne of CO2 (for coal). A full set of emissions figures across energy, business, residential, agriculture, waste management, industrial processes, public sector and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) – from 1990-2018 – can be found in the recent information release by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Switching from coal to a combination of gas and renewables has already delivered an emissions reduction of more than 60% in the energy supply sector (278 to 105MtCO2e) since 1990. Efficiency gains, the elimination of routine flaring and venting practices and the development of post-combustion CCS are key to driving further reductions in the sector.