EDF Energy will keep its existing UK nuclear fleet operating longer than anticipated, providing a 5GW capacity cushion at around the time the UK’s coal fleet will have closed.
Announcing annual results this morning the energy firm said scheduled closure dates for Heysham 1 and Hartlepool will be extended by five years to 2024. Scheduled closure dates for Heysham 2 and Torness will be extended by seven years to 2030. No decision has yet been taken on whether it will build a new reactor at Hinckley C.
EDF said the UK’s carbon price floor and capacity mechanism made it financially attractive to keep the plants running longer. These mechanisms provide a windfall to older existing plant, especially those with low carbon emissions in the case of the carbon price support mechanism, by effectively handing them extra profit.
The firm said it had shared its plans with the Office for Nuclear Regulation and pointed to increased reliability of its fleet in 2015 than the year before as an indicator of improving performance. In 2015, EDF’s UK nuclear output was 60.6TWh. The firm said that was the highest level for 10 years and 50% higher than when it acquired the stations in 2008, some 40 years after construction began at Hartlepool, the oldest of the four plants.
In total, the extension keeps 4,755 MW on the system at a time when some have predicted the closure of the UK’s coal fleet could otherwise cause problems.
EDF reported domestic customer losses of almost 286,000. Meanwhile, it said UK underlying profit was down 15%. Sales were down by 1.7% although earnings before interest, tax, deductions and amortisation (EBITDA) was up 4.9%, propped up by cost cutting and the strong performance of its nuclear fleet.