Fears over power shortages this winter sparked by the Ukraine war have prompted D-BEIS secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and the UK’s biggest remaining coal-fired generator to grant a six month reprieve to its biggest plant.
EDF’s West Burton A plant at Retford, Nottinghamshire will now spin at least until late March, the generator confirmed this week.
Talks featuring Britain’s two remaining coal burners, Uniper’s Ratcliffe on Stour and Drax at Selby, are thought to be continuing.
Ensuring Britain’s lights stay on in the event of a revived price surge in the wholesale gas markets, and a cold winter is the measure’s goal.
EDF said it had agreed with National Grid ESO and D-BEIS that 400 MW of one of the plant’s two 500 MW turbines will be set aside for continued supply. The second turbine will remain on call for emergencies involving heavy demand.
With West Burton A hitherto planned to close in September, two of its four units were already being prepped for decommissioning.
The plant has no capacity market (CM) contracts to honour. The company stressed there will be no commercial basis for operation.
West Burton A first span in 1966, employing 600 at its peak. It now employs around 125. Around 200 staff and contractors will deliver the extended service.
Matt Sykes, EDF’s managing director for generation, said: “West Burton A and its loyal workforce have played a critical role providing power to the UK. In April this year EDF was asked by Government to consider a further extension, to support energy security in light of the ongoing energy crisis”.
Energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng hailed the agreement in a tweet.
“With uncertainty in Europe following the invasion, it’s right we explore all options to bolster supply”, the minister wrote.
“If we have available backup power, let’s keep it online just in case. I’m not taking chances.”
Environmental campaigners including Greenpeace criticised the move.