The National Grid Electricity Systems Operator (ESO) has confirmed it will have no coal-fired power as back-up this winter, if needed, to help keep the lights on.
There were five contingency units to call on last winter as the energy market reeled from the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
They were warmed up several times and used during March when a cold snap hurt wind generation.
The ESO had said earlier this month, at the publication of its early winter outlook report, that it remained in talks with EDF and Drax about keeping their coal-fired generation on its standby contracts.
But it said on Wednesday: “At the request of government in March 2023, the ESO has undertaken discussions with the operators of two winter 2022/23 contingency coal plants to establish whether these arrangements could be extended for a further winter.
“These discussions have now concluded. Both operators have confirmed that they will not be able to make their coal units available for a further winter and have begun the decommissioning process.”
That process was down to government policy.
It had said that by October 2021, all coal-fired power units were to have been shut as part of the country’s ambitions to tackle climate change.
The remaining unit, Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, will be the only one left functioning.
But It has a so-called capacity market contract, meaning it will supply electricity to the grid like any other provider this winter.
The unit had been solely available to the ESO, if required, during 2022/23.
Two units at EDF’s West Burton A power station have been closed as planned.
The two at Drax are set to be converted to biomass generation.
The lack of contingency back up is likely to alter the ESO’s outlook for the winter ahead.
Its earlier report expected sufficient capacity to meet demand after the turmoil leading up to 2022/23 when gas flows from Russia were stopped, sparking a scramble for supplies on the continent.
But it added that it was “prudent to maintain” the demand flexibility service (DFS), which was introduced in 2022.
The DFS, which was activated for the first time in January after a series of tests and false alarms, sees volunteer households paid to turn off their main appliances at times of peak demand.