Coal-fired power tops share of UK winter power generation

One third of Britain’s electricity was provided by the coal-fired power sector over the last six months, despite the loss of 5 GW of coal plants over the last two years.

In the October 2014 to end of March 2015 period, coal provided 33 per cent of total power generation, compared to gas at 25 per cent and nuclear at 18 per cent.

Paul Verrill, director of energy data specialists EnAppSys, told Power Engineering International:Coal-fired power stations continued to provide the bulk of power generation for the GB electricity market during winter 2014-15.
Coal digging
“This position was impacted by gas price increases towards the beginning of Q4 2014 that were driven by the increased demand for heating, and followed a summer period in which gas plants were highly competitive against coal-fired plants. The dominance of the coal-fired fleet came despite the loss of some coal capacity in recent times.”

“In hindsight, fears of blackouts going into the winter period seem to have been exaggerated, as gas plants saw overall levels of power output at just over a quarter of their installed capability. In fact a number of gas plantsà‚ failed to achieve sufficient runà‚ hours to forestall closures in 2015.”

Meanwhile there was good news for wind power, but at the expense of gas generation.

Wind farms saw load factors of around 38 per cent – above those for gas-fired plants ” enabling wind to provide 11 per cent of overall generation.

Verrill told PEi, “This growth of the wind fleet meant that a quarter of total power requirements were satisfied by either interconnector supply from other countries or from renewable sources, which, coupled with falling demand, squeezed the requirements for generation from thermal (coal or gas) power sources.”

The total power mix for the period is:

  • Coal: 12,768MW; 33 per cent.
  • Gas: 9,577MW; 25 per cent.
  • Nuclear: 6,926MW; 18 per cent.
  • Wind: 4,459MW; 11 per cent.
  • Interconnectors: 2,186MW; 6 per cent.
  • Biomass: 1,810MW; 5 per cent.
  • Hydro: 987MW; 3 per cent.
  • Solar: 215MW; 1 per cent.


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