The Cottam coal power plant owned by EDF in Nottinghamshire was switched off for the last time on 30 October.
The 2GW plant was commissioned in 1968 and was able to produce almost 500 terrawatt-hours of energy during its lifetime. That’s enough to supply the UK’s entire energy system for about eighteen months.
The power station was designed to function for three decades, but had extended its service life until 2019. Until its closure, Cottam had been capable of producing enough power for around 3.7 million households.
Decommissioning of the power station is underway and is estimated to go on for about six to twelve months. The buildings are set to be demolished during this process.
In 2015 the UK government announced its intention to close all power stations that emit dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide (or CO2) as soon as cleaner alternatives produced by gas-fired stations will be set in motion. The latest study from Climate Analytics has also suggested that emissions from coal should reach a peak in 2020 to curb the harmful effects of climate change.
The UK has seen a substantial growth in renewable energy generation, which could be a significant reason why Cottam was closed. With renewable sources surpassing coal as the leading energy supply according to the National Grid, power stations that use fossil fuel have been pushed further down the list, with fossil fuel generation figures now the lowest on record since the Industrial Revolution.
EDF Energy, the owner of the Cottam plant, blamed current market conditions for the plant’s demise. It is expected that all UK coal-fired power stations will be put out of service by 2025.
The closure of the Cottam coal-fueled power station leaves only six major coal-fired stations in operation in the UK. The list includes Ratcliffe and West Burton in Nottinghamshire, Fiddlers Ferry in Chesire, Drax in North Yorkshire, Kilroot in County Antrim, and Aberthaw in the Vale of Glamorgan.
EDF Energy further stated that the plant’s 300-strong workforce had either been moved to other areas of the company or to nearby West Burton.
The West Burton power station is said to continue running for at least another two years, with contracts still in place.
Andy Powell, Cottam plant manager, expressed his grief over the closure, but gratitude for the contribution the power station made while it was in operation. He said that the past 50 years had made the power plant a significant part of the landscape. It was able to support the UK economy and went far beyond its designed operational life.
Powell also claimed that the plant was running better than ever in its final days. He also stated that the Cottam team has been in constant communication with management ever since the closure was announced to ensure that employees’ futures are looked after.
Trade union Prospect senior deputy general secretary Sue Ferns said that she felt grateful for the redeployment of the workers in a prompt manner. She called the termination of Cottam as a sad day, however, she remains hopeful that the move was made to achieve the net-zero emission goals of the UK.
Ferns added that the transition to low-carbon generation could be adequately managed without negatively impacting the workforce.
EDF has already sent word to the workers, encouraging them to explore opportunities within the firm, with a number of them possibly being absorbed into the Hinkley Point C project.
Meanwhile, a Greenpeace spokesperson weighed in on the matter, saying that it is good news for the world that the days of coal-burning have dwindled considerably. The organisation believes that dirty fuel is one of the leading causes of the present climate emergency.
More investors and stakeholders are eyeing renewable energy generation, since there is an upward trend in the use of clean electricity. Several offshore and onshore wind farm projects are operational or already in construction today, contributing significantly to the grid and fostering the ‘net-zero by 2050’ target.