The United Kingdom is experiencing exceptionally high temperatures. The demand for energy for air conditioning and cooling has surged. A coal-fired power station is being used to cope with this peak.
In the UK, temperatures reached 30 degrees Celsius over the past weekend. The British meteorological service issued a heat alert, and the hot weather is expected to continue in the coming days. Air conditioners and other cooling systems are running at full capacity. The balance of supply and demand in the British energy market is precarious.
To address sudden energy needs, the UK has a few coal-fired power stations as backups. This year, two power stations were already brought online when the country was hit by a cold spell.
On Monday, the National Grid, the UK’s high-voltage network operator, called on the operator of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station to make the plant operational in case there is insufficient power available from British wind turbines or from submarine power deliveries from the European mainland.
Coal-fired power stations are particularly polluting, releasing large amounts of fine particles during energy generation. Greenpeace criticized the ‘failing’ British choice to rely on polluting coal-fired power stations during a heatwave, a consequence of climate change.
The decision to use coal-fired power stations to compensate for energy shortages is not unique to the UK. Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Austria also utilize these plants as backups to mitigate the energy crisis.
The UK has pledged to stop using coal from the autumn of 2024.