The closure of the coal-fired Fiddler’s Ferry power station near Warrington, with the loss of about 270 jobs, is the latest glaring example that the government has discarded ‘King Coal’ as part of the solution to the UK’s energy crisis.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said that today’s (Thursday 4 February) announcement was ‘a disaster’ for the country’s energy needs, the local economy, and the workers and their families.
Energy giant SSE wants to close three of four units at the Cuerdley site by April; keeping the other unit as a ‘winter burner’ should it be required by the government during a cold ‘snap’.
Unite national officer for energy Kevin Coyne said: “This is clearly a decision that SSE has made which will impact on at least 270 employees from Merseyside who will lose their jobs as a result.
“However this is clearly in line with government policy in their dash from coal to gas and a determination that coal will not be a sustainable energy source in the future. The government’s carbon floor tax has added massive additional cost while their decision to renege on carbon capture and storage has removed all confidence from the industry.
“What is left is a loyal workforce feeling that important decisions about their future are out of their control. We will engage with the company however to ensure that every avenue to save this plant is explored.
“What we are witnessing is the latest glaring example of the government discarding a role for coal in a future comprehensive energy strategy.
“The jettisoning of the £1bn carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition by chancellor George Osborne in November was another nail in the coffin of ‘King Coal’.
“CCS would have given coal a real future, while keeping carbon emissions within EU limits - the technology is already used effectively in Canada and Sweden.
“Currently 31 per cent of electricity comes from coal burning power stations, but a third of this is expected to close by the end of 2016.”
Unite regional officer Graham Williams said: “The workers are devastated by the news, but are also angry at the lack of joined-up thinking with regards to the government’s energy policy.
“If the government were prepared to pay the proper rate for electricity this would be a small price to pay to keep this workforce in employment and it would assist the National Grid system greatly now and in the future.
“It is a sad day for the workers and their families and Unite will be doing its utmost to support our members in the difficult times ahead.”
The news comes hard on the heels of the closure in December of Britain’s last deep pit coal mine at Kellingley colliery, near Castleford. In September it was announced that the coal-fired Eggborough site in West Yorkshire was due to cease generating in March, with the loss of about 240 full-time jobs. This followed the news that Ferrybridge C power station is also set to shut next month
Unite has repeatedly warned that industry, commerce and consumers face higher UK electricity prices and the prospect of the lights going out in the years ahead, because power reserves are so slim, especially during cold weather periods.
Unite’s policy is to keep UK coal production alive, utilising CCS technology to keep coal as an integral part of a UK coherent energy policy.
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.