Coal power to be phased out by 2025 and ‘no more blank cheques’ for offshore wind

Coal fired power stations are to be phased out by 2025 under plans set out today by Amber Rudd, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary.

Speaking at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London Rudd set out policy priorities and her strategy for putting them into action.

“We now have an electricity system where no form of power generation, not even gas-fired power stations, can be built without government intervention. And a legacy of ageing, often unreliable plant,” she said. “Perversely, even with the huge growth in renewables, our dependence on coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel – hasn’t been reduced. Indeed a higher proportion of our electricity came from coal in 2014 than in 1999. So despite intervention we still haven’t found the right balance.”

According to the department of energy and climate change (DECC), Rudd signalled her intention to develop a cleaner, more secure energy network by consulting on closing coal fired power stations by 2025.

Rudd said: “One of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to emission reductions in electricity is by replacing coal fired power stations with gas.

“Our consultation will set out proposals to close coal by 2025 – and restrict its use from 2023. If we take this step, we will be one of the first developed countries to deliver on a commitment to take coal off the system.

“But let me be clear, we’ll only proceed if we’re confident that the shift to new gas can be achieved within these timescales.”

She added that nuclear power will have a significant role in the UK’s energy mix, and that Small Modular Reactors would be investigated for their promise of low cost, low carbon energy.

“Opponents of nuclear misread the science. It is safe and reliable. The challenge, as with other low carbon technologies, is to deliver nuclear power which is low cost as well. Green energy must be cheap energy,” she said.

Offshore wind would continue to receive support from government provided caveats around cost are met.

“Today I can announce that – if, and only if, the government’s conditions on cost reduction are met – we will make funding available for three auctions in this Parliament. We intend to hold the first of these auctions by the end of 2016.

“On current plans we expect to see 10GW of offshore wind installed by 2020”.

“The industry tells us they can meet that challenge, and we will hold them to it. If they don’t there will be no subsidy. No more blank cheques.”

Commenting on Rudd’s speech, Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association said: “Phasing out coal power electricity is of course good news and was expected – this is an essential move.

“However it makes little sense to replace fossil coal only with fossil gas. Gas and large-scale solar will soon need very similar levels of support, but unlike gas solar has the bonus of zero carbon emissions, future price certainty and no dependency on imports from unstable countries.”

Matthew Spencer, director of Green Alliance, added: “The cost of offshore wind is falling, but Amber Rudd has been wise to make future support conditional on the industry bringing costs down further. We’re heartened that the government has followed our recommendation to create a glide path to full technology competition in 2025.

”Future conditional support protects the consumer, whilst giving the industry greater confidence to invest in the supply chain, which is crucial to growing UK content and lowering costs.”