High gas prices have triggered a resurgence in electricity generation from coal as it becomes the cheaper option.
Britain could see its first increase in carbon emissions in six years if coal-fired power plants continue to undercut gas ones, according to Imperial College London.
Coal plants were the biggest source of electricity as recently as 2013 but their share of the energy mix fell precipitously and they supplied less than 7 per cent of UK power last year.
Their demise was driven by environmental legislation, carbon pricing, which penalises polluting coal more than cleaner burning gas, and low gas prices. However, gas prices have risen over recent months after supply disruptions and low storage levels, and are at ten-year highs. That has made coal competitive once more, despite rising European carbon prices.
“It became cheaper to generate power from coal than from gas in late August,” Iain Staffell, a lecturer in sustainable energy at the centre for environmental policy of Imperial College said. “Coal plants are consistently ‘in the money’ at the moment, meaning they can generate power profitably all day and night.”