Scotland marks end to coal power as Longannet chimney is blown up

January 19, 2022
Climate Change
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Scotland has marked the end of its coal-powered history by demolishing the huge chimney at its last remaining coal plant at Longannet in Fife.

The chimney, which was Scotland’s largest freestanding structure, dominated the skyline for more than half a century before it was destroyed on Thursday morning with 700kg of explosives.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who pushed the ignition button on the controlled implosion, described the demolition as “a symbolic reminder that we have ended coal-fired power generation in Scotland, as we work in a fair and just way towards becoming a net zero nation by 2045”.

The Longannet coal plant, which is owned by Scottish Power, was the largest of its kind in Europe when it began generating enough electricity to power a quarter of Scottish homes in 1970. Almost half a century of power generation at the plant came to an end in 2016 when the energy company shut the site beside the Firth of Forth, drawing a line under the coal age that had powered Scotland’s Industrial Revolution.

Sturgeon said Scotland aims to generate half of its overall energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030 by investing in renewables, hydrogen and energy storage to help tackle the climate crisis “in a way that leaves no one behind”.

She said growth in these sectors over the next decade would be “transformative for Scotland, delivering further good, green jobs, strengthened energy security, and benefits for local communities”.

Scottish Power, which is owned by the Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, ended its generation of fossil fuels in 2018 after selling off its last gas plants to Drax to focus on running wind and solar farms.

Keith Anderson, Scottish Power’s chief executive, said the company had “bade farewell” to a landmark; “However, this is a landmark day for Scotland, too.”

He said: “Watching the chimney of Scotland’s last coal-fired station fall today represents a real milestone, as the UK moves away from the large polluting power stations of the past and accelerates down the road to net zero emissions.”

The UK still has a handful of coal plants that generate electricity ahead of the government’s 2024 ban on coal power. Drax continues to burn coal at two of its six generating units in North Yorkshire. There are also active coal plants at West Burton A in Lincolnshire, at Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire, and at Kilroot in Northern Ireland.

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