One of the UK’s eight remaining coal power stations is expected to cease generating electricity at some point in 2018, the government has said as it laid out new rules that will force all the plants to close by 2025. Ministers will also retain emergency powers to suspend the phase-out in the case of an emergency shortfall in electricity supplies.
While three plants shut in 2016, and most are expected to halt operations by 2022, the last ones standing will be forced to close in October 2025 because of new pollution standards.
However, the plan reveals the sector will continue to be propped up by hundreds of millions of pounds in backup power subsidies for several years, paid through consumer energy bills.
Coal’s fall has been swift and dramatic, with power generation from the polluting fuel plunging by more than 80% since 2012.
Plans for a new nuclear power station at Wylfa on the Welsh island of Anglesey took an important step forward after Britain’s nuclear regulator approved the Japanese reactor technology to be used at the site after a four-year review.
Yet the clearing of one obstacle has only sharpened focus on a bigger one ahead: the need to secure billions of pounds of finance to build the plant.
The Wylfa site, owned by Horizon, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi, has become a crucial test of UK energy policy because it is the farthest advanced of several proposed nuclear projects vying for government backing.
The fate of Britain’s ambitious reactor-building programme is being watched closely after a year in which the falling cost of renewable power — coupled with further delays and cost overruns on nuclear projects in the US, France and Finland — deepened doubts about the economics of atomic power.
Horizon is one of four separate companies developing plans for five nuclear power plants around the UK in addition to Hinckley Point C. All are likely to require some form of government support to get off the ground, according to industry executives.