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Ferrybridge blast marks further retreat from coal

Alok Sharma presses detonator on chimney stacks

One of the most familiar symbols of King Coal was dramatically dethroned today when climate change chief Alok Sharma blew up two landmark chimney stacks at the former SSE-owned Ferrybridge power station in West Yorkshire.

With just 70 days to go until the landmark climate change summit in Glasgow, it was an opportunity for the COP26 President Alok Sharma to be the focus of Britain’s energy transition.

The demolition of the two 200-metre chimney stacks from the West Yorkshire skyline – recognised by millions of motorists travelling north-south on the A1 – was a tangible sign of the demise of coal.

It also comes just weeks after the IPCC issued a ‘code red’ warning to humanity on the urgent need to decarbonise.

Ferrybridge C power station opened in 1966 and in 2004 ownership passed to Perth-based energy firm SSE which closed it in 2016. In June, the UK Government announced that Britain will no longer use coal for energy generation from October 2024, a year earlier than previously planned.

Ferrybridge is less than 35 miles from Keadby in North Lincolnshire, where SSE is working to replace coal and other carbon-intensive forms of power generation with flexible, low-carbon alternatives.

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SSE is progressing plans with Equinor for one of the UK’s first power stations equipped with carbon capture technology at the site by 2027, as well as the world’s first major 100%-hydrogen fired power station by the end of the decade.

The plan is to locate these power stations on the same site as SSE’s under-construction Keadby 2, which uses technology already capable of blending low-carbon hydrogen and will be Europe’s most efficient power station.

As part of his visit, the COP President met with SSE employees who have transitioned from Ferrybridge to Keadby and those working on new low-carbon technologies, applying their skills and knowledge to the power stations of the future. 

Combined with the nearby Keadby Wind Farm and Dogger Bank, the world’s largest offshore wind farm being built off the east coast, SSE’s projects and assets in the North of England represent a microcosm of the future energy system, with low-carbon thermal power backing up large-scale renewable generation.

The COP President also met SSE apprentices working at Aldbrough Gas Storage facility in East Yorkshire, where SSE and Equinor are also developing plans to create one of the world’s largest hydrogen storage facilities. Hydrogen storage will be vital to reaching the UK’s net zero goals, as outlined by the UK Government in its first-ever Hydrogen Strategy, which was published last week.

Mr Sharma, said: “It is time for countries to set out clear plans to consign coal power to the history books and safeguard our planet for future generations. The UK is moving fast towards a clean energy transition and the many new jobs in renewables, like those being created by SSE, demonstrate how many opportunities there are in our green industrial revolution.

“Pressing the button on this demolition is a symbolic moment for me and demonstrates that change is possible. But to limit global temperature rises and keep 1.5C within reach, the whole world needs to plan to consign coal power to the past.”

SSE Group Energy and commercial director, Martin Pibworth, said: “As the UK continues to lead the way in powering past coal, it’s crucial we’re investing in low-carbon alternatives to provide the flexible power generation needed to continue to enable a renewables-led energy system.

“At Keadby, we’re developing cutting-edge CCS and hydrogen solutions to address this underlying challenge, while also supporting the decarbonisation of heavy industry and other hard-to-reach sectors across the region.

“As a Principal Partner to COP26, SSE believes there is a clear opportunity for the UK to demonstrate global leadership on CCS and hydrogen technologies, as we have done with offshore wind, delivering the solutions needed for a secure, cost-effective and just transition to a net zero economy.”



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