Tilbury Power Station closes

NPOWER has announced that Monday was the last day of generation at its Tilbury B biomass power station, after its controversial decision to halt plans to develop a new biomass power plant at the site.

Since 2011, the original coal-fired power station has been converted to run solely on sustainable certified biomass, making it one of the largest sources of renewable energy in the UK providing up to 10 per cent of the country’s renewable power.

However, the 750MW plant, which was originally came online in 1967, is still scheduled to close today under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant (LCPD) Directive, which under air pollution rules limits the number of hours of operation for older coal-fired power plants.

Npower’s parent company, RWE, had been pursuing plans to redevelop the site as a dedicated biomass plant capable of meeting the relevant EU environmental standards. But it announced recently that it was shelving the plans, after the government confirmed the project would not be viable for support through the contracts for difference regime enabled by the new Energy Bill.

“In light of this, RWE has taken the difficult decision not to proceed with the project as it is no longer economically viable under the existing Renewable Obligation (RO) mechanism,” the company said in a statement.

Tilbury Power Station Manager, Nigel Staves said the closure was “a sad time for everyone at Tilbury Power Station”, adding that he would “like to personally thank all of our staff past and present who have contributed to the success of the station, particularly in the delivery of such a pioneering development for UK biomass”.

RWE said that it still regarded Tilbury as an “excellent site for power generation” and would now review future plans for the site. It also said it would seek to apply the lessons learnt during the biomass conversion project to other assets in its portfolio.

The government’s biomass strategy remains controversial, with industry sources complaining the new policy regime is failing to provide sufficient support to pure biomass plants by instead focusing on coal-to-biomass conversion and combined heat and power projects.

Meanwhile, green groups are continuing to argue that safeguards to ensure that only sustainable woodchips are used in biomass plants are not robust enough.

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