UK Grid Operator Turns on Coal Units as Power Shortage Grows

United Kingdom grid operator National Grid ESO is turning to its reserve coal power units to cover electricity shortages amid a crippling energy crunch that has seen several countries across the European Union struggle to maintain their energy supply. A statement from the National Grid revealed that it had synchronized two coal facilities at its West Burton coal plant to the national grid.

This is despite the fact that the UK has pledged to phase out the use of coal in power generation by 2024 as part of global efforts to combat climate change.

National Grid decided to extend operations at the West Burton plant last June in preparation for such a situation. Although the grid operator has asked coal plants to warm up in case there are energy shortfalls several times, this is the first time a reserve coal mine has been used to generate electricity for the national grid.

The UK isn’t the only European country to go back on its coal promises; several other countries in the EU turned on previously shut-down, coal-fired power plants to supplement their energy mixes after Russia halted natural gas supplies to EU countries. Germany, the Netherlands, France, Austria and Italy have all announced plans to restart or extend coal power plants to secure enough energy supplies ahead of the 2023-2024 winter despite their climate change effects.

But despite the UK’s recent use of coal, coal makes up only 2% of its total electricity supply compared to 40% a decade ago.

Last October, National Grid ESO warned that there was a worst-case scenario where households across the UK would go through a series of power cuts over the winter due to insufficient energy supplies.

Russia’s decision to cut off gas supplies to Europe took away one of the UK’s largest power suppliers and significantly increased fears of power shortages over the winter months. Turning on coal plants is a way for the grid operator to avoid this worst-case scenario and ensure that National Grid has enough capacity to comfortably serve households across the country.

The additional power output produced by the coal plants allowed the grid operator to generate enough power that it canceled a recently issued electricity margin notice.

Energy supply in the UK became strained due to freezing temperatures that increased demand and low winds that reduced output from wind farms. Additionally, strikes at EDF Energy’s nuclear power plants in France, which provide energy to the UK through subsea cables, strained the supply chain even further.

This situation in the UK shows just how much of a contribution coal extractors such as Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE: BTU) play in ensuring that the energy demands of different countries are adequately satisfied, and getting rid of coal energy will not be a simple undertaking.

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