Writing in The York Press today, Eggborough chief executive Neil O’Hara says the Government must support biomass conversion projects in order for plans like Eggborough to survive.
Eggborough Power Station is proud to have been a leading Yorkshire business since 1967. Our 800 workers keep homes warm and businesses running, while the station supports thousands of transport, engineering and construction jobs.
We provide about four per cent of UK electricity – the same amount of spare capacity the regulator predicts the country will have in 2015.
But stations like ours face an imminent cliff-edge. Like many coal plants, Eggborough is trapped between different environmental and economic policies, both UK and European.
To avoid the likelihood of becoming uneconomic to run beyond 2015, Eggborough must convert to biomass. This is based on what we know about market conditions and policies – we can’t and won’t base business decisions affecting the station and workforce on hypotheticals.
We’ve spent two years and millions of pounds planning the conversion, worth upwards of three quarters of a billion pounds to the region. This would double our onsite workforce and boost jobs through our supply partners: Alstom, Morgan Sindell, Spencer, GB Railfreight and Port of Immingham.
The project was for January and would have been the UK’s largest infrastructure project in the first quarter of 2014.
The deal was dependent on certainty from Government that Eggborough would be eligible for support as a low-carbon power station.
The project was one of the most advanced on the shortlist, meeting key criteria, including cost-competitiveness (biomass is the cheapest renewable technology after onshore wind); quick delivery; and contribution to supply-security.
Unfortunately, in December 2013, Government modified its scoring system to spread funding across different types of power generation, reducing funding for biomass conversion.
Although many successful projects were costlier and nowhere near “shovel ready”, Eggborough didn’t make the list. We were forced to announce that Unit 2 (one per cent UK electricity) would cease operating in September 2014. Without support and certainty from Government, we can’t justify the investment to keep it running.
We have had huge support since December. Our local MPs, Nigel Adams and Andrew Percy, have led the charge, labouring tirelessly to make Eggborough’s case to Government, echoed by the local council and politicians from across the country concerned about a potential knock-on effect of £38 on consumer bills.
Our commercial partners, unions and employees (many of whom have given most of their professional lives to Eggborough) have raised the alarm on job implications. No solution has been found.
Government suggests Eggborough’s future is a business decision for its owners. Some believe today’s relatively cheap coal price means Eggborough can remain economic – especially if Government freezes the ‘carbon tax’ on power stations.
Unfortunately, the World Coal Association believes today’s coal price is a short-term side-effect of the US shale gas boom, while any possible carbon tax freeze will be too late for Eggborough.
The team here are doing everything in their power to get this nationally significant infrastructure project built, safeguarding jobs and energy security.
But extending Eggborough’s life depends on economic conditions, combined with many complex Government energy policies by which the power market is now controlled.
The current pathway is not the choice of Eggborough’s owners. Government prioritisation of certain technologies (regardless of cost or readiness) leaves little room for manoeuvre.
National Grid predicts UK low-carbon generation in 2020 will be 54.9 per cent reliant on just one source – wind. Biomass is cost-competitive and the only baseload (non-intermittent) renewable available now to fill the capacity gap.
Committing so much funding to one intermittent energy source could be a huge gamble with the UK’s energy security.
We will continue appealing to Government on Eggborough’s behalf. We remain grateful to our supporters and hopeful for a solution.”
Inconsistent support for ‘biomass energy’
NEIL O’Hara’s plea to the Government comes after plans for a £300 million power station in the North East were dropped.
Independent renewable energy developer RES has announced it is ceasing work on a biomass power station project at the Port of Blyth, in Northumber-land.
The project, which was due to create 350 jobs, has been scrapped after loosing a key partner, which RES bosses have attributed to “Government’s inconsistent support for dedicated biomass energy”.
Also facing a doubtful future is the bid to convert Eggborough Power Station, near Selby, from burning coal to biomass.