Energy Shortage If Grain Power Plant Closes:
E.ON U.K., a unit of Germany’s largest utility, said European Union rules forcing the closure of its oil-fired power station at Grain in southeast England will leave Britain vulnerable to energy shortfalls. “It would be barmy for us to close Grain,” Chief Executive Officer Paul Golby said in an interview in London. If the U.K. meets EU renewable-energy targets it will need more backup generation to cope with the intermittency of wind power, he said.
Britain, which plans to install as many as 8,000 offshore wind turbines over the next decade, may need to boost generating capacity by more than 40,000 megawatts to maintain power supply when output from renewable sources dips, according to the U.K. Business Council for Sustainable Energy. One megawatt can supply about 650 households, according to industry group RenewableUK.
E.ON’s 1,380-megawatt Grain facility, built in the 1970s, is operated as a so-called peaking plant, meaning it’s used when production from other stations is insufficient to meet demand. Under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, designed to curb emissions, Grain is due to be permanently shut by the end of 2015, or once it has used up its allotted operating hours.
“The quantity of carbon dioxide or anything else is miniscule,” Golby said. What little pollution is emitted is “an acceptable premium to have to pay.”
Britain is preparing to replace as much as 30 percent of its aging power-station capacity over the next decade with a new fleet of nuclear reactors, gas-fueled plants and generators driven by renewable sources such as wind. The U.K. has a target to get 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020. That’s part of an EU-wide goal of 20 percent, which is raised or lowered according to country.
Six coal and three oil-fired power plants in Britain, including RWE AG’s Fawley and Littlebrook stations, are due to close under the EU legislation. Those nine plants can generate more than 11,000 megawatts, or 14 percent of the U.K.’s electricity demand. The country’s total capacity is currently about 76,000 megawatts
“We run Grain 10 or 15 days a year,” Golby said, adding that it would cost E.ON, Britain’s second-largest power producer, about 2 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) to replace the plant. The investment wouldn’t be worthwhile for a generator that runs so infrequently, he said.
E.ON U.K., a unit of Dusseldorf-based E.ON AG, is developing a combined heat and power plant at the same site. The 1,275-megawatt, 500 million-pound facility will be operational later this year, according to the company’s Web site.
Electricite de France SA, the largest power producer in Britain, won control of eight nuclear plants with 15 reactors when it bought British Energy in 2008. The U.K. is among European countries promoting an expansion of atomic power to secure energy supplies and reduce carbon emissions. The first new nuclear station won’t be complete before 2017.