UK coal free
Kilroot Power Station - Image credit: Wikiwand

Czech energy company EPH has confirmed that it will close its 565 MW Kilroot coal-powered plant in Northern Ireland. The announcement comes amid the UK’s longest coal-free run (32 days), smashing its previous record of 18 consecutive days since it began burning coal for power generation in 1882.

Kilroot does not fall under the British government’s coal phase-out commitment that will shut down plants by 2024. But the UK’s highly effective carbon pricing policy, combined with the rapid growth of its renewable energy market, and pollution limits set under the EU Industrial Emission Directive means that the plant is no longer financially viable.

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“Global demand for coal power is plunging rapidly and has been in decline in Europe for several years now. The end of coal burning at the Kilroot power plant is part of that broader story, ” said Kathrin Gutmann, Europe Beyond Coal campaign director. “While nobody would celebrate the reasons for the additional decline in energy demand and pollution that we are seeing currently, it does present us with an unprecedented opportunity to build a more resilient economy with a renewables-based power sector at its heart.”

EPH says it plans to replace coal-fired with gas-fired power generation at Kilroot after it was granted a 10-year contract for new gas generation last week. EPH has not said when coal-powered electricity generation at the plant will end, or when the new gas-fired power generation capacity will be completed.

“Gas should not be thought of as a climate-friendly alternative to coal; its high methane content is 34 times more heat-trapping than CO2,” said Gutmann. “We need to be making smart investments for the sake of our economies, our health, and our climate. The UK has already committed to a 2050 net-zero carbon emission strategy. It should be making choices that lead straight there, rather than wasting precious time and money burning more fossil fuels.”

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