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​SSE exits coal generation in ‘landmark moment’ with closure of Fiddler’s Ferry

Fiddler's Ferry Power Station. Image: Alan James.

Fiddler's Ferry Power Station. Image: Alan James.

SSE has today (31 March) closed its last coal-fired power station, Fiddler’s Ferry.

Located in Warrington, Cheshire, the power station has closed after nearly 50 years of generation. It was first announced in June 2019, with the station seeing out its existing Capacity Market contract to September 2019.

Fiddler’s Ferry had an original capacity of 1995MW, dropping to 1510MW after the closure of Unit 1 in 2019. It lost around £40 million in a single financial year, a figure which SSE said made the station unsustainable.

National Grid ESO, National Grid Electricity Transmission, the government and Ofgem have been consulted throughout the last year, with the closure having been factored into wider GB electricity system planning, the DNO said.

The closure also comes as part of SSE’s commitment to net zero, and ahead of the government’s target of ending unabated coal-fired generation by 2025. A government consultation is currently underway, however, to bring the date forward to 2024.

SSE closed its other coal-fired plant, Ferrybridge C, in 2016. It isn’t the only company to close a coal-fired power station in the UK today, however.

RWE’s 1560MW Aberthaw B is also slated for closure today. Its existing Capacity Market agreements for the years 2019/20 and 2020/21 are to be transferred to third parties and a small proportion to other units within RWE’s fleet.

Its closure was announced in August 2019, with RWE citing ‘challenging’ market conditions as making the closure necessary.

The two closures take the UK’s operational fleet down to four, however Drax recently announced it plans to end coal generation from March 2021, although its remaining to coal units will stay available until September 2022 in line with its Capacity Market agreements.

This would take the UK’s fleet down to three, with EDF’s West Burton A, EPH’s Kilroot and Uniper’s Ratcliffe on Soar still generating.

Stephen Wheeler, managing director of SSE Thermal, said the closure of Fiddler’s Ferry is a “landmark moment” for both SSE and the wider energy industry.

“It’s made a huge contribution to the local area, but it’s the right thing to do as the UK continues to move to cleaner ways of producing energy and take action on climate change,” Wheeler said, adding that it is intending to back up its renewable generation with “super-efficient gas-fired plants” while exploring carbon capture and hydrogen.

The shuttering of the UK’s coal fleet comes as renewables and low carbon generation soar. In 2019, renewables produced nearly 37% of the UK’s power, with renewables and nuclear together accounting for a record 54.2%. The year also saw a landmark fortnight of coal-free generation.

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