The UK government has confirmed plans to phase out the use of unabated coal for electricity generation by 2025.
The decision follows a public consultation on the future of coal-fired power plant in the UK, and includes plans to introduce an emissions intensity limit on existing coal plant.
Unabated coal-fired power plants will remain eligible to compete in capacity market auctions held for delivery before 2025, however, drawing criticism from some quarters that the sector will continue to benefit from government support until then.
The government said that following the consultation process, it had decided not to mandate the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology on existing coal plant. It believes that the “appropriate means to guarantee the closure of unabated coal by 2025” would be the creation of an emissions intensity limit of 450g CO2 per kWh of electricity generated.
This level is broadly in line with unabated natural gas generators and the emission performance standard applied to new build fossil fuel plants.
The emissions intensity limit will apply from October 2025, to align with the 2025/2026 capacity market delivery schedule. The government says that there is likely to be around 1.5 GW of unabated coal capacity remaining at this time.
It also says that the capacity market will ensure that there is sufficient capacity in place to replace coal units as they close.
“While delivering on the top line of a 2025 closure, the government’s decision to allow coal plants to compete in the capacity market on equal footing until then looks like something of a missed opportunity,” said Dr Jonathan Marshall, Energy Analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU). “In light of recent rhetoric, observers could have expected a stronger move from the government, that would utilise the market to remove coal generation as soon as possible rather than handing it another lifeline.”
Marshall added: “While these plants remain in action – and in receipt of Government support – the technologies of the future will continue to be stymied. Analysis shows that the UK can move beyond coal well before 2025 without risking of supply interruptions, so it’s slightly mystifying that ministers haven’t tried to pull the plug out a little quicker.”