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Government asks grid operator to extend life of emergency coal plants

A series of coal plants that remained on standby in case of an emergency this winter could be kept ready for next winter after the Government asked for an extension.

National Grid’s Electricity System Operator said it had received a request from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to look at contingencies for next winter.

The Government has asked it to explore an extension of the deals signed with energy generators Drax and EDF which ensured that extra coal power would be available over the last winter.

The plants were set to close last year but after gas supplies dried up amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine the Government scrambled to find options to keep the lights on during the winter months.

This meant striking a deal with the coal plant operators to keep them on standby during the winter.

In the end the coal plants were only used once over this winter, and even then they were barely needed.

“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.

The PA news agency asked the Department for Energy Security for a copy of the letter, but has not yet received a copy.

ESO said that it will not provide a commentary on the negotiations it holds until it has a deal ready, citing commercial sensitivities.