Longannet power station in Fife closed last Thursday, ending a near 50-year tenure and signalling the end of the production of any coal-based power in Scotland.
The power station, which is owned by Scottish Power, was initially only supposed to be active for 25 years but with added investment its lifespan was increased to 46 years and was a key part of our power plant portfolio even up until last winter.
Since its opening in 1969, Longannet has burned through over 177 million tonnes of coal, 2.4 million cubic metres of natural gas and 2.7 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil. Throughout its tenure, Longannet has been “essential to meeting the energy needs of Scotland”, according to Scottish Power.
Thursday was described wistfully as a sad day by Scottish Power director Hugh Finlay who said, on the plants closure, “for the first time in more than a century, no power produced in Scotland will come from burning coal”.
As well as marking a historical moment for Scotland and the UK, this is something of a watershed moment for Scottish Power themselves who are in the process of transitioning their energy mix to be dependent more or less wholly on wind and gas.
Coal power has been an integral part of Scotland’s industrialisation and so the closure of Longannet does truly mark the end of an era.
The closure of the plant is being hailed as a victory in the fight for a greener future, but it has raised questions about our energy security in the coming years.
Scotland’s energy minister, Fergus Ewing, described the current energy policy – that has seen the closure of many coal fired plants while at the same time removing support for wind farms and carbon capture and storage projects – as a “shambles”.
He said: “with the closure of Longannet the margin of spare capacity will get even tighter. They [the government] need an urgent rethink of their failing energy policy.”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change, however, were quick to do what they could to put aside worries regarding energy security, maintaining that when the closure of Longannet was announced in August last year, “National Grid factored this into their decision on how much energy capacity to procure for next winter”.
Environmental activist group WWF praised the end of the use of coal power in Scotland, figuring it as a landmark on the road to a largely renewable energy profile in Britain and the rest of the world.
They said: “The closure of Longannet marks a historic and inevitable step in our energy transition, as Scotland becomes one of the first nations to end its use of coal for power.”
WWF Scotland’s director Lang Banks said: “While the power station has served the nation for many years, the world is moving forward to cleaner, cheaper forms of renewable energy generation.”