UK energy grid charges force closure of Longannet power plant in Fife


Ageing coal plant will shut down in March 2016 after bid dispute

SCOTTISH POWER has confirmed that Longannet coal power plant will shut down, despite attempts to find a financial package to secure its operations as part of the energy grid.

Longannet had its bid for a national grid connection rejected, meaning that high transmission charges made the plant unsustainable.

Both the plant owners and the Scottish Government have pinpointed blame for the high transmission charges on the UK Government, which regulates the energy network.

The closure of the plant will result in over 230 job losses and amplify challenges to Scotland’s energy network.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, commenting on the announcement, said: “Scottish Power’s decision to close Longannet in March 2016 is deeply regrettable and has far reaching consequences for Scotland.

“This is a worrying time for Longannet workers and the Scottish Government and its agencies will do everything possible to support the 230 directly employed staff who will be affected by this announcement.

“Today’s decision is ultimately an unfortunate and direct result of the UK’s discriminatory transmission charging system that penalises Scottish electricity generators in comparison to those in the south of England. In Longannet’s case the extra charges amount to PS40 million per year. However, despite raising our concerns repeatedly with the prime minister, absolutely nothing has changed,” he continued.

The Scottish Government aims to reach 100 per of gross electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

Pro-renewable energy groups argue that the closure of Longannet can provide a catalyst to investing in wave, wind and tidal energy projects to provide security of energy supply.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “This announcement marks an historic, but important step in Scotland’s energy transition. While Longannet has served the nation for many years, it is Scotland’s single biggest source of climate emissions and a combination of its age, air pollution rules, carbon pricing and transmission charging have made closure inevitable.

“The recent Scottish Parliament inquiry into energy security provided ample evidence from the national grid and other experts that Scotland’s electricity supply is absolutely secure without Longannet. Indeed, Scotland will continue to remain a net annual exporter of power to the rest of Great Britain and an integrated part of the most secure electricity grid in Europe.”

The Scottish Government aims to reach 100 per of gross electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

Environmental research titled ‘Pathways to power’ suggests that it’s possible to exceed this target and generate an energy surplus from renewable sources.

Local MP for the Longannet site, Douglas Chapman, said: “This is very disappointing news and particularly for the workforce – families and communities who depend on Longannet, it will be a very worrying time for them. It has been long expected but that does not lessen the blow or the anxiety in the community. The key threat to Longannet’s future has always been the UK’s energy policies. We urgently need a fair and level playing field with the rest of the UK and the current transmission charging regime is far from that.”

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has committed to making a statement to parliament on the issue once Holyrood is back in session.

Picture courtesy of B4Bees