Longannet power station closes ending coal power use in Scotland

The biggest plant of its kind in Britain has been generating electricity for 46 years, with closure marking ‘end of an era’ for coal power in Scotland

Scotland will on Thursday witness an end to the coal age which fired its industrial revolution with the closure of Longannet power station.

The symbolic switch off is an important step towards a lower carbon Britain but is another blow to energy security.

The Fife-based plant – the biggest of its kind in Britain – has been generating electricity for a quarter of Scottish homes for almost half a century but has bowed to a mixture of old age, rising transmission costs and higher taxes on carbon.

Over 230 direct jobs and an estimated 1,000 indirect ones could be hit by the decision from Spanish-owned utility, Scottish Power, to switch off the last generator at the 2,400 mega watt capacity plant.

“Coal has long been the dominant force in Scotland’s electricity generation fleet, but the closure of Longannet signals the end of an era,” said Hugh Finlay, generation director at ScottishPower.

“Longannet has contributed more electricity for the national grid than any other power station in Scotland’s history, and it is a sad day for everyone at ScottishPower,” he added.

No decisions have been taken on the future of the site, but Scottish Power expects to outline its plans before the end of the year. Longannet is the largest coal-fired plant in Britain as rival Drax is firing as much wood as coal these days. When built Longannet was the largest of its kind in Europe.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “The closure of Longannet marks an historic and inevitable step in our energy transition as Scotland becomes one of the first nations to end its use of coal for power.

“While the power station has served the nation for many years, the world is moving forward to cleaner, cheaper forms of renewable energy generation.”

There are still a couple of open cast coal mines in Scotland but Longannet was the last big user of supplies. Locally-mined coal was key to Clydeside shipbuilding and steelmaking north of the border in the last century.

Scottish Power, one of the big six energy suppliers and now owned by Iberdrola, once had half a dozen coal-fired power stations but is now dependent on gas and wind farms for generating electricity.

A spokesman for the company said Longannet had originally only been expected to work for 25 years but heavy investment in new equipment had allowed it to keep on running for 46 years.

“It was uneconomic to continue”, said the Scottish Power spokesman, because of the high transmission charges and carbon taxes. However, he added that the company was still investing heavily in energy systems

Six new onshore windfarms with investment of over £650m are currently in construction, and over £500m will be spent this year strengthening the network of cables, power lines and substations that keep the lights on for 2.5m homes and businesses.

Last November Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, unveiled plans to close all British coal-fired power stations by 2025 as part of a plan to reduce the country’s carbon emissions.


Terry Macalister Energy editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Longannet power station to shut next year
High-polluting coal-fired power station on the Firth of Forth fails to secure crucial contract with National Grid

Severin Carrell Scotland correspondent

23, Mar, 2015 @5:55 PM

Article image
Scotland marks end to coal power as Longannet chimney is blown up
Nicola Sturgeon pushes button on controlled explosion at what was Scotland’s largest freestanding structure

Jillian Ambrose

09, Dec, 2021 @3:40 PM

Article image
Drax coal power station 'could be transformed to produce biomass fuel'
UK's largest coal power station could become top renewable energy source if subsidies are increased, Drax chief says

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent

02, Aug, 2011 @3:44 PM

Article image
Ban coal from backup power subsidy scheme, says Scottish Power
Energy company and RenewableUK argue it is ‘counterproductive’ to spend bill-payers’ money on dirty technology

Adam Vaughan

30, Jan, 2017 @4:16 PM

Article image
The environmental impact of coal and oil | Letters
Letters: The Brent Spar campaign was entirely peaceful. And, far from accepting Shell could dump its oil tank at sea, we made them remove it


06, Feb, 2017 @7:40 PM

Article image
Drax power station to lead fresh carbon capture trial
Biomass-burning unit to use pioneering technology that aims to cut emissions

Adam Vaughan

21, May, 2018 @6:46 AM

Article image
Scottish Power shifts to 100% wind generation after £700m Drax sale
Big six energy firm drops fossil fuels for generation and say cheap green energy is the future

Adam Vaughan

16, Oct, 2018 @8:32 AM

Article image
Drax power plant to stop burning coal, with loss of 230 jobs
The 2021 plan for Yorkshire site will be four years ahead of government deadline

Jillian Ambrose Energy correspondent

27, Feb, 2020 @9:48 AM

Article image
Great Britain heads for record coal-free period during lockdown
England, Scotland and Wales on brink of two-month milestone, says National Grid

Rupert Neate

09, Jun, 2020 @4:47 PM

Article image
KiWi Power: the tech-savvy energy firm with a way out of Britain's power crisis
Laptop-sized product monitors customer's energy usage and can cut it off in times of high demand – and the client gets paid for it

Terry Macalister

07, Jul, 2014 @7:25 PM