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    UK Pledges Law to Ban Coal Firing


The UK government has published results of a consultation into banning unabated coal-firing from 2025, and promised enabling legislation.

by: Mark Smedley

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UK Pledges Law to Ban Coal Firing

The UK government January 5 published results of a consultation into banning coal-firing from 2025, and has promised to enact enabling legislation. Its fiscal strategy has already yielded results.

In November 2015 the government said it would consult on proposals to end unabated coal generation in Great Britain (GB) by 2025; one year later it started the consultation process which ran until February 8 2017 and received 5,939 responses. The prime minister Theresa May confirmed September 18 that the government will proceed with action to regulate the closure of unabated coal power generation units by 2025.

The government now says it is considering legislation to introduce a new emissions intensity limit from October 2025, plus implementation measures. The limit will prevent unabated coal units entering into the GB Capacity Market auctions held in late 2021/early 2022, for the 2025/26 delivery year. Subsequent auctions for delivery years beyond 2021/22 will be published nearer that time, it added.

In its consultation results paper, the government stressed how unabated coal emits around twice as much carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of gas-fired generation, meaning that carbon pricing is important to limit coal’s use. In his November 22 2017 budget, UK finance minister Philip Hammond committed to keeping total carbon prices at around their current levels, until unabated coal is phased out. In the 2014 Budget, the UK carbon price floor, or tax, was set at £18 (currently $24.40)/tonne CO2 from 2016 to 2020.

Coal on its way out

Its paper also noted that the level of coal generation in 2016 fell to 9%, from 22% in 2015, and that in 2Q 2017 it reached a record low of 2%, which the government said was largely due to high carbon pricing. In April 2017, Britain had the first 24-hour period without coal on the grid since the first coal-fired power plant opened in 1882; there has not been any coal-fired plant in Scotland since March 2016.

Coal provided 5.7% of Britain's electricity January 3, according to National Grid's control centre, lagging behind gas which provided 40%, wind 22.8%, nuclear 18.9%, and power imports on 7.7%. During peak demand periods, more coal is still used, with coal generating 12.9% of GB power as at 15.00 GMT January 5.

On low demand days, wind can push gas into second place, as happened December 31, when wind generated 33% of GB power, gas 24.7%, nuclear 23.5%, imports 8.9%, coal 3.8% (other renewables were 4.5%).

Other European states pledging to ban coal in power generation include France (by 2022) and Netherlands (by 2030) but there have been no commitments from heavy users like Germany, Poland and Spain.