UK Grid Operator Asks Coal Plants to Stand Down Hours After ‘Warm-Up’ Request

National Grid instructed coal-fired power plants to stand down hours after issuing them an order to “warm up” last week. The United Kingdom grid operator had asked one unit at West Burton, Nottinghamshire, and two in Drax, Yorkshire, to do so before midnight on Wednesday night.

The Electricity Supply Operator (ESO) asked the West Burton unit to stand down on Thursday morning before informing the two coal units in Drax later that they also would not be firing up. These three coal-fired power plants were placed on standby to produce additional power amid an energy crunch that has significantly increased fears of blackouts during winter.

National Grid has been working to balance power supplies in the country over the past couple of weeks as cold and less windy weather has increased energy use in households while simultaneously reducing power generation from wind turbine stations.

In January, the energy company began running a demand flexibility program that allows it to pay some households with smart meters to reduce their energy use at peak demand times. This allows the ESO to reduce power generation from polluting sources such as coal at peak energy consumption times; the program also includes some businesses. National Grid is expected to pay suppliers and households slightly more than $3,714,300 as part of its energy-saving service.

The energy-saving scheme was debuted by Octopus Energy in 2020 and expanded to other suppliers in November. More than a million households and businesses signed up for the energy-saving program when it was officially launched last week. The program will most likely expand over time and include home batteries and electric vehicles.

However, according to National Grid, the latest instruction to warm up wasn’t because of sudden cold weather that increased demand while reducing power supply. The ESO said that it was due to a request for assistance from French power grid operator RTE, which feared a critical disruption in electricity generation due to strike action on Thursday.

The French grid operator later determined that the additional power from the coal-fired facilities wasn’t needed, resulting in the stand-down order. France and Britain are linked by subsea interconnector cables that allow grid operators to move electricity from one country to another based on demand.

According to the ESO, the coal-fired power plants would only have been able to provide power to send to France if it was determined that those resources were not essential in the prevention of energy shortages in Great Britain.

These coal plants show just how vital the commodity produced by companies such as Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE: BTU) still is in providing an energy source countries can rely on, at least for the foreseeable future.

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