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Coal plant ‘will close as planned’ despite Government’s winter standby request

EDF has said that it does not plan to extend the life of a Nottinghamshire coal power plant which had been on call in case of an emergency after the Government said that it wanted to negotiate to keep the facility for next winter.

The energy giant said that its West Burton A plant – between Lincoln and Doncaster – “will close as planned” at the end of this month.

It came after the grid operator on Wednesday revealed that it had been asked by the Government to negotiate with EDF and others to keep coal plants that would otherwise retire on standby for another winter.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero wrote to National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) to ask it to ensure there were contingencies in place amid an energy supply crunch.

The sites – run by EDF and Drax – were meant to have been decommissioned last year, but because of the energy crisis the Government asked them to be ready for any emergencies.

Despite being ready, EDF’s plant was only called on once through the winter, switching on for a few hours on March 7.

“The two remaining units at West Burton A coal-fired power station in Nottinghamshire will close as planned on March 31 2023, in line with the agreement signed last year,” EDF said.

It added: “There are a number of workforce and operational reasons that mean extending the life of West Burton A again is very challenging.

“For example, retaining suitably qualified and local personnel to ensure safe operation was a major challenge last year and, looking forward, becomes untenable as many of the workforce have stayed on well beyond planned retirement dates already.

“Approximately half the staff are retiring by the second quarter of this year. Notices have already been given for around half of these and they leave early April. This includes a large part of the station leadership team.”

National Grid ESO said: “At our Operational Transparency Forum this morning we have confirmed receipt of a letter from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero requesting that we explore the procurement of winter contingency contracts, for additional non-gas-fired capacity over the 2023/2024 winter, that would otherwise not have been available.”

ESO said it would not provide a commentary on the negotiations it was holding until it had a deal ready, citing commercial sensitivities.

The PA news agency asked the Department for Energy Security for a copy of the letter. It did not provide one.

It said: “Ultimately, the decision will be a commercial one for the coal generators and ESO will update the market in due course.”