The chief executive of Drax Power Limited believes coal may still have a role in maintaining the UK’s energy security if the government fails to build sufficient alternative capacity to cope with the closure of coal-fired power plants.

Andy Koss also pointed out that the UK may be in danger of summer blackouts as coal-fired units would be closed for maintenance and uneconomical to keep open without incentive.

“The economics suggest that very few, if any, coal plants will be running over the summer, especially with the new emissions directive,” he told the FT.
Andy Koss
The government has served notice that it intends to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2025 but the Drax chief says the government will have to do more to encourage gas, biomass and other fuels or else consider pushing the deadline for coal abolition to a more realistic date.

“If sufficient new build is not coming through then the government will have to look again at whether 2025 is the right cut-off date.

“If no new plant is being built, then I think there is a role for Drax to keep running.”

At the moment efforts at stimulating new power plant construction have not worked with a scheme meant for gas-fired power instead being used by nuclear and diesel power.

According to the Drax chief a potential energy gap may have to be resolved through a capacity reserve and extending the lifespan of some of the remaining coal fleet.

Drax, which has a capacity of about 4 GW, supplies 7-8 per cent of Britain’s electricity. Three of its current boilers have been converted to biomass and it is awaiting Brussels approval to convert the remaining three.

Mr Koss warned that unless such support was coming in the next two years, the coal boilers might have deteriorated to such an extent that conversion would no longer be possible.

Interviewed in Director magazine this week Dorothy Thompson, Drax group CEO, said, “The UK has the highest carbon tax in the world, and if it does look like it will become uneconomic to carry on using our coal-fired power generators, we will look at a range of scenarios to find a sensible solution. The energy market is evolving.”