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Coal-Fired Power Stations

Volume 975: debated on Wednesday 5 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what would be the effect on the coal market of cutting excess electricity generating capacity from about 35 per cent. to 17 per cent. by retiring the oldest and smallest coal-fired stations; and what would be the anticipated gain to the Central Electricity Generating Board.

Small, old coal-fired stations are low in the Central Electricity Generating Board's merit order, and so generate for only short periods at times of maximum demand and burn little coal. Exact amounts depend on weather and availability of other plant, but they are not sufficient to influence the coal market in any significant way.An adequate margin of capacity has to be maintained as a safeguard against the effects of cold weather and plant breakdown. An overall margin of only 17 per cent. would be insufficient to cover the contingencies involved and would result in interruption of supply through shortage of generating capacity.