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8 Mar, 2023 16:08

Britain turns to coal to keep lights on

Cold weather has caused a surge in demand, forcing the National Grid to put coal plants on standby as emergency backup
Britain turns to coal to keep lights on

The UK’s National Grid asked coal-fired plants on Tuesday to be ready to generate power for the first time this winter, as a late-season cold snap has caused a shortage in power supply across the country.

The energy grid operator was leaning on coal to increase supplies, requesting three more units to prepare to generate after turning to Electricite de France on Monday.

Coal-powered reserve units were readied for use several times throughout the winter, but this is the first time they have been needed.

“Although it’s never positive to use coal, it’s better than having the lights go out,” Adam Bell, the head of policy at consultancy firm Stonehaven, told Bloomberg. “Right now, in the middle of an energy crisis, it’s a sensible thing to do.”

Low wind conditions recorded on Tuesday and high demand due to severe winter cold, along with a dearth of imports related to strikes by power-station workers in France, has created a ‘perfect storm’ of an energy crisis in the UK.

Wind generation has slumped, securing just 13% of the country’s power, while the UK’s Meteorological Office has issued warnings on sub-zero temperatures, as well as snow and ice that could disrupt transportation.

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