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UK coal plant closures in 2016 resulted sharp drop

UK coal plant closures in 2016 resulted sharp drop

LONDON: Several UK coal plant closures in 2016 resulted in a sharp drop in total coal-fired power generation, which even briefly fell to zero in May for the first time in 100 years, but was offset by a steep increase in gas-fired power production.

Coal-fired power stations generated just 28 TWh of electricity in 2016, more than 62% lower than 74.45 TWh recorded in 2015, according to S&P Global Platts Powervision data. The 2016 total was at lowest for at least six years, down almost 80% from 137.20 TWh of power produced in 2012. Around 5 GW of coal capacity was taken off the wholesale market at the end of the first quarter due to shrinking profit margins and higher carbon costs.

Reduced capacity coupled with unplanned outages at multiple plants meant UK coal-fired power output plummeted to zero in the early hours of May 10 for the first time since the Victorian era. Coal-fired output also hit a record monthly low of 0.51 TWh in August. On the other hand, despite an overall decline in power demand in 2016, lower coal-fired power output, reduced interconnector imports and wind generation ramped up the use of gas-fired power plants.

Power generated from CCGT plants in the UK reached 127.25 TWh, up from 84.34 TWh in 2015, and a touch above the 126.96 TWh generated in 2011, Powervision data showed. It was also the highest in at least six years.

Total power demand fell to 283.8 TWh in 2016, down from 286.7 TWh in 2015. The UK saw a slight uptick in nuclear power supplies, which rose to 66.73 TWh in 2016, up from 65.67 TWh in 2015, data showed.

On the renewables side, wind power output fell to 21.2 TWh in 2016, from 23.37 TWh in 2015, while total electricity generated from solar farms in the UK rose for the third consecutive year, in line with growth in installed capacity, to reach 9.52 TWh. In contrast, power imports from neighboring countries continued to slide, falling for the second straight year to 18 TWh, with total imports dropping to a five-year low in December.

The UK remained a net importer of electricity, but only 0.44 TWh of power was imported into the country in December, the lowest since November 2011 when only 0.43 TWh was sent into the UK, data showed.