Burning coal to generate electricity is slowly, but surely coming to an end. Two large coal-fired facilities have been recently closed in the UK, as to many environmentalists delight. The plants closed were Fiddler’s Ferry in Chesire and Aberthaw in Wales.
Various reports say that 2 weeks ago, the UK governments announced that electricity from coal generated sources declined by 60% in 2019. Having said that, coal was a big provider to the UK supplying 6.9 TW (terawatts) of power. However, this was actually a record low in modern history.
To put into perspective, the amount of electricity that came from coal in 1990 was 70%. Today, it is around 3%.
Due to the fall in glamour of coal it has subsequently lowered plants financial performances over the years.
Owner of Fiddler’s Ferry facility said it had “deteriorated to unsustainable levels, with losses of around £40 million in SSE’s last financial year”
SSE Thermal’s managing director said the closure is a “landmark moment” for the company. They have surprisingly taken this plummet with pride and humility.
He said, “It’s made a huge contribution to the local area, but it’s the right thing to do as the U.K continues to move to cleaner ways of producing energy and take action on climate change.”
The Drax Power Station is the UK’s largest remaining coal station. To delight, (apologies to the jobs lost) it is scheduled to cease its operations as of March 2021 with pressures from external agreements to reduce emissions.
Unfortunately, coal cannot compete like it used to and cheap natural gas had shattered coals competitiveness said the International Energy Agency in the European Union in 2019.
The Somerset Operating Company, which is the last coal-fired generating plant in New York, is set to close as part of governor Andrew Cuomo’s push to make a fossil fuel free state by 2040.
This facility – located near Buffalo – has served as the center of local life for decades. But, a brighter future lays ahead for New York, UK and the rest of the world when it comes to new and sustainable means of energy.
According to The New York Times, the owner of the plant – Beowulf Energy – says it wants to convert it into a data and server farm. However, the problem with this is the conversion from blue collar jobs to white collar, thus, leaving many unqualified to hop on the new bandwagon.
If this does go ahead, they will need to look at alternative ways to include those who have dedicated their life to the plant and who could be left jobless after this transition.
Is natural gas the key?
Similar to the UK, the US has seen a vast amount of low cost natural gas in the last few years. The good thing about natural gas is that it burns much cleaner than coal and is already replacing coal in many markets.
With the current health pandemic and the collapse of many types of energy markets around the world, the cost of fuels is lower than the cost of extracting them. The question is, what will we do next winter when it is most needed?
The health pandemic has shattered many assumptions about modern life in the last few weeks. The one of many advantages of renewable energy is an absence in the constant variations in fuel cost which makes planning for large thermal generating a big and continuous risk.
Stability in price could be a huge incentive for renewable energy developers looking forward.
Do you have any family members or friends working in the coal industry?
Credit: Steve Hanley – Cleantechnica