Britain’s oldest coal-fired power plants prepared to fire up their hoppers for a price of almost £1,000 per megawatt-hour on Tuesday to avert a power shortfall as temperatures across the country plunge and wind power wanes.
The cold snap ignited the winter’s first warning that Britain would run out of electricity unless idling coal plants ramp up to help meet demand for power.
National Grid said on Monday evening that there was a 100pc probability that the lights would go out within 24 hours unless an extra 2GW of power capacity agreed to help meet demand.
The first negative supply forecast of the season spurred the operators of Britain’s oldest plants to offer their power at prices well above the prevailing market rates to fill the gap.
Meanwhile, the Fiddlers Ferry plant warmed its coal-fired units in case its bid to produce power for a price of £995/MWh was accepted.
The market price for power during the peak demand hours of the day climbed to around £140/MWh as demand for electric heating climbed and wind power output fell to a fraction of its potential on a windy day.
The rush of aging coal plants back to the market to take advantage of higher prices quickly filled the looming power supply gap.
But the reliance on the market’s oldest power plants reignited fears over the country’s power supply plans in the wake of a European court ruling against the UK’s cornerstone energy security scheme two weeks ago.
The European Union’s Court of Justice brought Britain’s energy security plans to an immediate standstill last month by ruling that the UK should not be allowed to pay power plants to stay open.