A major weakness in the Government’s energy security commitment has been exposed with the closure Yorkshire’s Ferrybridge power station and the loss of 172 jobs.
Energy experts and union leaders have warned of the damaging consequences to the UK’s power supply as the owners of the coal-fired power station blamed the carbon tax introduced by the last coalition government as part of the reason for the decision to close the site.
Energy giant SSE said it had taken the difficult decision to close the power station, near Pontefract, after a lengthy consultation, although the news still came as a bitter blow to staff when it was announced this morning.
Tonight Tony Lodge, Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, said the energy industry would see more failures unless the government scrapped the levy on carbon-intensive industries.
Writing for The Yorkshire Post, he said: “There are no shiny new equivalent-sized power stations being built to replace Ferrybridge, the Longannet plant or any other possible closures which this announcement may prompt.
“Conservatives need to end the Carbon Price Floor tax as a priority. The disastrous early closure of Ferrybridge and the domino effect this could start is the first major test of the new government.”
The managing director of Ferrybridge’s operators SSE Paul Smith said the company would support workers at Ferrybridge through the closure.
He said Ferrybridge would close by the end of March 2016 due to rising costs and environmental legislation.
Mr Smith said: “It has been an extremely difficult decision to make because of the impact it will have on the workers, their families and the surrounding area.
“We have been working hard to ensure that Ferrybridge is sustainable moving forward but we simply couldn’t and we had to make the difficult decision to close the site.
“It costs £10m a year to keep Ferrybridge going and we estimated that the site would lose £100m over the next five years and that’s just not sustainable.”
Yvette Cooper, Pontefract and Castleford MP, said: “This is awful news not just for the 170 people who are employed directly but also for the hundreds of contractors who are expected to lose their jobs as well. It also comes on the back of job losses at Kellingley Colliery as well.”
And Phil Whitehurst, national officer for the GMB union, said the site’s closure could lead to energy issues in winter 2016.
A Department for Energy spokesman defended the Government’s energy policy.
He said: “We sympathise with those affected.
“The Government takes security of supply very seriously and has worked with National Grid to put in place an effective plan which worked well last winter. This plan has been robustly stress-tested to cope with the toughest system conditions, and is flexible enough to adapt to individual plant closures.”