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UK Could Keep Coal Plants Operational Beyond Closure Date Amid Gas Crisis

UK power company Drax could have its last two coal-fired plants in the country operating beyond the 2022 deadline it had set for closure if the UK government asks it to keep them operational amid the energy crisis in the country and the whole of Europe.

“If the government wants us to rethink our plans, we need to talk to them in the next few months,” Drax’s chief executive Will Gardiner told the Financial Times on Wednesday.

“We’re very aware that the country might have a significant problem and if there’s something Drax can do we will absolutely think about doing that,” Gardiner told FT.

Drax said last year it would formally close its remaining coal-fired units in September 2022 and convert them to sustainable biomass as it aims to become a world-leading carbon negative company by 2030.

The whole of Europe, including the UK, is grappling with soaring natural gas and electricity prices ahead of the winter heating season due to tight gas supplies, very low gas inventories, and low wind power generation amid still weather.

In the UK, surging natural gas prices and warm and still weather forced the country to fire up earlier this month an old coal plant that was on standby in order to meet its electricity demand.

The UK has pledged to phase out coal-fired power generation by October 2024.

Due to the high gas prices, several UK energy providers have already exited the market, and more suppliers are set to go bust as soaring gas prices are putting an unprecedented cost burden on smaller electricity and gas providers, the head of the UK's energy regulator said on Wednesday.

The government will continue to protect consumers through the energy price cap, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, said in a statement to Parliament on Thursday.

The energy cap will remain in place, but the government will not be bailing out failed energy companies, Kwarteng said.  

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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