Winter brings first use of backup coal plants for National Grid

Last Tuesday marked the start of production at EDF’s Nottinghamshire plant, West Burton A

EDF started producing power for the grid on Tuesday afternoon from two units at its West Burton A plant in Nottinghamshire.  The amount of electricity generated from other sources will determine how much they ramp up their output.

Power and heating demand has been pushed up by freezing temperatures, and windfarm electricity production has been cut back due to low winds. A strike at EDF’s nuclear power plants in France has also raised concerns, since those plants supply Britain with electricity through subsea cables.

In response to heightened concerns over power supplies this winter, the government negotiated five winter contingency contracts last year to keep coal-fired power plants on standby for emergency use.  Several coal-fired plants, including those at Drax in Yorkshire and Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar plant in Nottinghamshire, were warmed for use this winter but stood down.

In a separate notice, ESO instructed all power plant owners to provide extra power between 4.30pm and 8.30pm on Tuesday. This requirement was later cancelled. Despite its steps to bolster supplies, National Grid stressed the supplies were not in danger.

Due to concerns Russia could cut gas supplies into Europe, the Grid has been on alert about the possibility of power cuts this winter. Gas prices have fallen sharply due to a relatively mild winter and high gas storage levels in Europe. A spokesperson for the ESO said that the coal units would offer “additional contingency to operate the network as normal”.

Gas-fired power plants were paid record amounts by National Grid in December in order to boost supply at short notice. Last Tuesday, experts expected it to pay high prices to gas-fired plants again.

According to live ESO data, gas-fired plants generate 54% of Great Britain’s electricity, while windfarms contribute 13% and nuclear 10%.

You might have already heard us mention the likelihood of blackouts (loss of grid/network supply) in 2023.  Although it’s a welcome site to see National Grid add to it’s capacity, there is no guarantee blackouts will not occur in the future based on the current economic situation.  This makes it increasingly important industrial companies have a backup plan to avoid catastrophic losses in production and money.

We have that plan! Find out more today at [email protected]

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