The UK moved closer to phasing coal from its energy system, as EDF switched off Cottam Power Station in Nottinghamshire after more than 50 years of operation.
The 2GW Cottam opened in 1968 and since then has burned 168 million tonnes of coal to generate 500 terawatt hours of electricity, across 1.1 million generation hours. At its height the plant produced enough electricity to power 3.5 million homes.
Cottam’s plant manager Andy Powell, who joined the site as an apprentice, said he was “sad but proud.”
“This place has been a key part of the landscape for the past 50 years, supporting the economy, and actually has gone far beyond its original projected operational life,” he said.
The site employed around 140 people. Some will be transferred to the EDF’s Hinkley Point nuclear power station, currently under construction, or to West Burton A coal station, which has a contract to operate until September 2021, or the gas-fired turbine also on the West Burton site.
Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary of trade union Prospect, said she was “grateful” that Cottam’s workers had been redeployed where possible.
“The closure of Cottam is a sad day but if we are to achieve our country’s emissions goals then it is necessary,” she said.
“If managed properly the transition to low carbon generation can be done with a minimum of negative impact on the workforce.”
With the closure of Cottam, there are now just six coal-fired power remaining in the UK: West Burton and Ratcliffe, both in Nottinghamshire; Drax in North Yorkshire; Fiddlers Ferry in Cheshire; Aberthaw in South Wales; and Kilroot in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
All are slated to close by 2025, with RWE’s Aberthaw and SSE’s Fiddler’s Ferry scheduled to be taken offline next, in March 2020.
With the rise of renewable energy and heightened environmental concerns, coal’s contribution to the UK’s power mix has already fallen. Coal supplied just 3% of the UK’s electricity in the first half of 2019, down from a third a decade ago. The remaining coal-fired power stations are used mostly for load balancing and in times of exceptional demand, and this spring were all offline for a record 18 days, 6 hours, and 10 minutes.