SSE has announced it will shut its Ferrybridge coal-fired power station in West Yorkshire next year, five years ahead of its timetabled closure.
The utility claimed the plant faced losses of up to £100 million over the next five years, and was therefore closing by March 2016 at the latest.
The plant’s original generating capacity of 1,960MW was halved last year when two of Ferrybridge’s four 490MW units were shut under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD).
We’re keen to ensure, where possible, that staff are redeployed across other parts of the SSE group
SSE MD Paul Smith
The remaining two units, with a generating capacity of 980MW, have been fitted with flue gas desulphurisation equipment to be compliant with LCPD and were expected to continue generating until 2020, when they would fall foul of the EU’s more stringent Industrial Emissions Directive.
However, last summer one the two remaining units, unit 4, suffered a fire and has remained out of action ever since.
Work had been under way to bring unit 4 back into service, but this will now cease, with just unit 3 generating electricity until March next year.
The plant employs 172 workers and SSE managing director Paul Smith said the company was working to, where possible, relocate staff to either its new multifuel power plant at Ferrybridge or SSE’s Keadby gas-fired power plant near Scunthorpe.
“It [has] been known for many years that the UK would have to phase out coal as it moves towards a more sustainable energy mix,” said Smith.
“We’ve sought to protect jobs and invest in the site to keep it running for as long as we possibly could but ultimately we’ve had to make this regrettable decision today. Our team at Ferrybridge is highly skilled, dedicated, and with a strong track record of performance –and we’re keen to ensure, where possible, that staff are redeployed across other parts of the SSE group, for example the nearby Keadby power station.”
Keadby is a 735MW gas-fired power plant that is currently mothballed, but which SSE intends to return to operation.
On the Ferrybridge site itself the £300 million Ferrybridge Multifuel 1 (FM1) project is due to be fully commercially operational towards the end of this year, providing 46 full-time jobs. FM1 will be capable of generating around 68MW of electricity using a range of fuel sources, including waste-derived fuels from various sources of municipal sold waste, commercial and industrial waste and waste wood.
An additional 90MW multifuel project, FM2, has been proposed by SSE for the Ferrybridge site, with a decision on planning consent expected by the end of this year.
Phil Taylor, professor of Electrical Power Systems and director of the Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University, said today’s announcement of the Ferrybridge closure came as no surprise.
“We simply can’t continue to burn coal – it’s one of the most environmentally damaging fossil fuels and is an inefficient and expensive way to meet our energy needs,” said Taylor.
”It’s inevitable that coal-fired plants like Ferrybridge will close, with severe consequences for local jobs. The fact that this happens driven by market forces rather than as part of a well-considered energy strategy threatens the country’s energy security. This is why we need a long-term, progressive energy strategy in place urgently. Carbon capture and storage is still far behind where we need it to be, and we need to make sure workers affected by these shutdowns can get the transferrable skills and jobs they deserve.
“The solution to this is a long-term, well-considered national energy strategy and a system architect, maintaining security of supply.”