• UK government releases implementation plan for end of unabated coal firing

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The UK government has released its implementation plan for the ‘end of unabated coal’ in England, Wales and Scotland, which provides more detail on the aim to close coal-fired plants not equipped with carbon capture and storage by 1 October 2025. The plan rules out forcing CCS to be retrofitted to existing aged plants, instead pursuing implementation through emissions limits, with the 2025 limit to be 450g CO2 per kWh, roughly the same as an unabated gas-fired power station. This appears a sensible decision, as projections indicate that by 2025 there will only be one coal-fired plant still operating anyway, given the current age of the eight remaining coal-fired plants in operation, most being around 50 years old. Forced CCS would make the remaining plants close sooner, giving the UK less standby capacity as it transitions to a different power generation makeup. Coal-fired plants co-firing with biomass will have their emissions intensities calculated using the coal portion plus any net emissions from the biomass (which may prove a controversial calculation). The implementation plan does not include any additional constraints on coal firing before 2025, as there are already a number in place – a limit of 1500 hours of annual operation under the Industrial Emissions Directive, and the carbon price (which will remain at its current level until 2025) – to go together with the poor economic outlook for coal firing. Some critics have said the plan does not place enough pressure on coal, given that plants will still be paid to provide standby capacity, but the government argues, reasonably, that this is necessary to ensure an “orderly transition” to a lower-carbon power sector. While some headlines have described the plan as the end of coal firing entirely by 2025, it should be noted that the plan does allow for CCS-equipped coal firing. Nevertheless, the fall of coal in the UK is remarkable, as made evident by the fact that it was the top source of power generation as recently as 2013.