RWE announces decision to close Aberthaw B power station

The move comes as the UK aims to reduce its reliance on coal and switch to more renewable energy sources.

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RWE, the German utilities giant, is to close its last coal plant in the United Kingdom after the coming winter in a move that will leave only four coal plants left powering British homes.

RWE took the decision to shut down its 1.5GW Aberthaw B power station in the Vale of Glamorgan, south Wales, due to “market conditions”, according to CEO Roger Miesen. The closure will likely affect 170 members of staff based at the site.

Prospect, the trade union for engineers and scientists, said that it would be working with RWE to ensure that any job losses are managed responsibly. Prospect Negotiator Kevin Warden said in a statement: “While all existing coal-fired power stations have a limited life, the announcement to close Aberthaw in 2020 will still hit the staff who work there hard. Prospect will help and support members over the coming months.”    

Less than five per cent of the UK’s electricity supply came from coal in 2018, and the country went over a week without any coal-generated power earlier this year, marking the longest coal-free period since the Industrial Revolution. Coal has largely been driven out of the UK electricity system thanks to increased taxes on carbon emissions, and will be banned entirely by the government from 2025 in order to help meet climate targets.

Aberthaw B used 3.5 million tonnes of coal in 2013, but that amount had dropped significantly by the time RWE decided to downgrade its operations and only produce electricity when needed, such as in the winter months, from April 2017.

RWE’s decision to close Abertshaw B follows SSE’s to close Fiddler’s Ferry coal plant in Warrington, Cheshire by March 2020, because it is unable to compete with renewable sources of energy. In February, EDF Energy announced that it was planning to shut down its coal plant in Cottam, Nottinghamshire in September.

The series of closures will mean that by next spring just four coal plants will still be in operation in the UK: Kilroot in Northern Ireland, the West Burton A and Ratcliffe-on-Soar plants in Nottinghamshire, and two generation units at the Drax site in North Yorkshire, although those have been earmarked to be converted to burn gas.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman