Drax is to keep its coal-fired power station running over the winter following a request from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
BEIS reaching out to Uniper, EDF and Drax in April to request delays in the decommissioning of their coal-fired power plants to provide additional support over winter.
EDF has already confirmed its West Burton A coal-fired plant will continue running as part of a standby arrangement designed to support energy security. It will be decommissioned from April 2023.
With power prices at record highs amid continued volatility in the international gas market, concern has grown over the security of Britain’s power system.
Gas price surged towards the end of 2021, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has further exacerbated the uncertainty in the market. Given Russia’s role as the second largest producer of natural gas in the world, there has been further volatility in the market following the February invasion.
Currently, the UK gets just 4% of its gas from Russian imports but given the country’s substantial influence on the international gas market, concern remains around high gas and power prices further pushing up the cost-of-living crisis and impacting the security of the energy system.
In a letter sent to the staff and management of the power company, energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng thanked the company for agreeing to continue the operation of its coal-fired plant through the 2022/23 winter.
“On behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, I am writing to express my sincere gratitude to all involved at Drax for your engagement and co-operation throughout this process, which has facilitated the timely agreement of a contract with the Electricity System Operator at the request of Government,” he wrote.
As well as calling on coal-fired power plant owners to continue operation in the short term, in May, energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also called on National Grid Electricity System Operator to explore options for bolstering energy security ahead of the winter, including utilising more coal.
At the time, he noted that the move to include coal plants in potential security strategies does not signify a change in Britain’s commitment to end coal generation by September 2024 and phase out imports of Russian coal by the end of the year as part of sanctions announced in April.
Beyond these call for support, the government has published the British Energy Security Strategy and the Energy Bill, both of which provide further plans for supporting energy security in the longer term.