-- confirms detail, adds comments --
Britain has confirmed its remaining coal-fired power stations are to close within 10 years.
Setting out a plan to replace coal-fired stations with gas-powered ones, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said the plan would provide more secure long term supplies.
“Very-old coal stations” crowding out the market were partly to blame for a lack investment in gas powered plants Rudd said, who added nuclear also has a key role to play in the UK’s energy future.
Around 30% of the UK’s power comes from the fourteen coal-burning stations currently in operation.
A third of these are set to close this year to meet EU air quality legislation, while the remaining ten will now have to shut by 2025 and operate under restrictions from 2023.
Drax has already converted three of its six coal-fired generators to run on biomass and has earmarked a fourth to switch, but said it was disappointed there was no specific emphasis on biomass as an alternative to gas.
European Union guidelines had indicated 2023 as a closure date for the stations without clean air filters, but a lack of new gas-fired stations being built may have prompted the UK government to push back this deadline.
Concern over the security of electricity supplies in the UK has grown as the gap between peak demand and supply has narrowed.
Companies on interruptible contracts were told in recent months to reduce their demand on certain days by National Grid.
Britain’s manufacturers, though, welcomed the initiatives.
“Today’s speech marked a turning point for the UK’s energy strategy,” said employer’s group EEF.
”At long last we are seeing a government addressing security of supply concern in line with decarbonisation goals.”
The CBI added it was an encouraging sign that the Government is looking at ways to bolster the UK’s long-term energy future.
But the proposals have faced criticism from renewable energy groups and climate change campaigners who say they are misguided.
The campaigners claim the UK should be focusing on renewable power sources such as solar, wave and wind energy instead, but subsidies for solar power and onshore wind have been reduced.
Rudd's comments precede the UN climate change summit in Paris in December, which will aim to secure a new deal to cut global emissions and eliminate fossil fuels.
Friends of the Earth’s senior energy campaigner Simon Bullock said: "Amber Rudd is certainly taking UK energy policy in a new direction: unfortunately it’s backwards.
"The UK Government’s ongoing addiction to fossil fuels sends a terrible signal to crucial Paris climate talks, starting in a fortnight."