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Power station chimney demolished in ‘milestone’ for journey to net-zero

·3-min read

The chimney at Scotland’s last remaining coal-fired power station has been demolished on a “landmark day” for the UK’s journey to net-zero emissions.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pushed the button to ignite 700kg of explosives to bring down the chimney stack which has stood at Longannet in Fife for more than 50 years.

Scotland has been coal-free since ScottishPower closed the station in 2016 and the energy company now generates 100% green electricity through its wind and solar farms.

Environmentalists welcomed the demolition on Thursday as a “historic moment”.

Ahead of the demolition, ScottishPower projected the slogan Make Coal History on to the chimney stack, and also the Global Warming Stripes which show the change in global temperature from 1850 to 2020.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Today’s event is a symbolic reminder that we have ended coal-fired power generation in Scotland, as we work in a fair and just way towards becoming a net-zero nation by 2045.

“Our goal is to generate 50% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030, and Scotland’s energy sector is well placed to deliver on the key investments in renewables, hydrogen and energy storage required to achieve this.

“Growth in these sectors over the next decade will be transformative for Scotland, delivering further good, green jobs, strengthened energy security, and benefits for local communities as we decarbonise industry and society to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, in a way that leaves no-one behind.”

Longannet began generation in 1970 and ScottishPower said it was the largest coal-fired power station in Europe when first built, remaining the largest in Scotland until it closed on March 31, 2016.

At the height of operations, it burned coal from around the world including from as far away as Russia and Colombia, as well as from Scottish open-cast mines.

Longannet chimney demolished
The 600ft chimney stack was demolished in a controlled explosion (Jane Barlow/PA)

Typically, it consumed four million tonnes of coal per year and at full production could make enough electricity to power two million homes.

Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower, said: “At Cop26 in Glasgow, we were proud to show the world that Scotland has already made coal history.

“As a 100% energy company, we are committed to helping the UK end its reliance on fossil fuels.

“For half a century, Longannet’s chimney has dominated the Firth of Forth skyline. We bade farewell to that landmark today – however this is a landmark day for Scotland too.

“Watching the chimney of Scotland’s last coal-fired station fall today represents a real milestone, as the UK moves away from the large polluting power stations of the past and accelerates down the road to net-zero emissions.

Longannet power station demolition
The chimney was illuminated with the Global Warming Stripes before the controlled explosion (Stuart Atwood/PA)

“We already know the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is essential to minimise the worst impacts of global warming and address the climate emergency.”

The demolition of Longannet is being carried out by ScottishPower contractor Brown and Mason and work to remove materials at the site will continue into 2022.

Ignacio Galan, chairman of ScottishPower and Iberdrola, said: “Longannet played an important role in Scotland’s history as its largest coal station, but the future can only be about clean energy.

“Everyone working at ScottishPower and the wider Iberdrola Group should be proud to be contributing to this impressive transition from fossil fuels to renewables.”

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “It’s an historic moment to see the chimney of Scotland’s last coal-fired power station come down.

“We have successfully made coal power history in Scotland and rapid progress is now being made globally towards cleaner, renewable energy.”

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