Cold weather forces National Grid to put three coal-fired generators on standby

The UK is firing three coal-fired generators ready for use on Monday as prolonged cold weather engulfs the country.

National Grid said three generators – two at the Drax site in North Yorkshire and one at West Burton in Lincolnshire – would not necessarily be needed tomorrow.

But he asked them to warm up and be ready to run if need be.

The recent frost, which has brought sub-zero temperatures, freezing fog and snow across swaths of the country, will continue into next week.

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Standby power plants are three out of five coal-fired power units that were supposed to be retired, but whose service life was extended throughout the winter to increase supplies amid energy security concerns.

“This morning we issued a notice of warming emergency coal units for the winter. This measure should give the public confidence in Monday’s power supply,” said the ESO (Electricity System Operator) division of National Grid.

“ESO, as a prudent system operator, has these tools at its disposal to ensure additional failure rates for normal grid operation and the public should continue to use energy as normal.”

In October, ESO warned that “it’s likely to be a difficult winter for power supplies across Europe”, but said it planned a margin of 6.3% to ensure reliable electricity supplies.

This is the second time this winter that coal-fired power plants have been shut down. They were also heated in December when snow covered much of the country and energy demand increased, but ultimately they were not needed.

Coal is the most polluting type of fossil fuel and has been essentially phased out in the UK as it seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt dangerous levels of climate change.

But ministers in Britain, as well as in Germany and Italy, have warned they may have to burn more coal after Russian President Vladimir Putin cut gas supplies to Europe, sending prices soaring and threatening supplies.

Germany called his decision to fire up old coal-fired power plants “bitter but necessary” a pill to swallow, trying to replace the Russian gas.

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