RWE Will Close Wales Plant, Leaving UK With Four Operating Coal Units

German utility RWE on August 1 announced it will close its last coal-fired power plant in the UK. The closure of the Aberthaw B power station in south Wales, scheduled by the end of March 2020, means just four coal plants will be operating in the UK. The plant originally was scheduled to be shuttered in 2021.

Roger Miesen, chief executive of RWE’s generation business, said in a statement Thursday: “This is a difficult time for everyone at Aberthaw power station. However, market conditions made this decision necessary.”

The UK has been moving on from coal-fired generation over the past few years, and less than 5% of the country’s power came from coal last year. The UK earlier this year went a week without using any electricity from coal.

The UK government has said all coal-fired generation in the country must end no later than 2025 to help meet climate targets. Several plant closures have been announced in recent months; EDF Energy, the London-based utility, in February said it would close its Cottam coal plant in September.

SSE, the Scottish energy company, in June said it would close the Fiddler’s Ferry coal plant in Cheshire by the end of March 2020. SSE said the plant could not compete economically with natural gas-fired and renewable energy power generation.

Renewable resources accounted for about one-third of the UK’s power generation in 2018. The government’s official annual energy report released earlier this year noted that “low carbon” electricity, which includes renewables and nuclear power, accounted for more than 50% of the UK’s generation in 2018.

The UK’s remaining coal plants are the West Burton A and Ratcliffe-on-Soar plants in Nottinghamshire; Kilroot in Northern Ireland, a POWER Top Plant in 2016; and two generation units at the Drax power plant in North Yorkshire. Those units are scheduled to be converted to burn natural gas.

Tom Glover, RWE’s UK country chair, in a statement said: “For nearly 50 years the plant has played an invaluable role in helping to secure the energy supplies across the UK electricity system and we are very proud of its flexibility and resilience.”

Kelvin Mawer, a regional officer at Unite, a British and Irish trade union that represents workers at the plant, said, “The reasons given for the closure are economic—the plant has rarely run over the last few months. However, the decision to close has come a lot earlier than expected.” RWE said 170 workers would be directly affected by the closure.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).