THE UK STILL NEEDS COAL
Why import coal when we can mine our own coal?
Coal is a valuable mineral resource that is used for a variety of purposes in the UK, yet in 2017 we imported 57% of the coal we needed from oversees, primarily from Russia and the USA. In previous years it has been as high as more than 80 per cent. See motion in Parliament regarding Demand for Coal in UK, from June 2018.
The graphic below highlights the source of the coal needed in the UK and the changes in tonnage since 2016.
Coal is still used for electricity generation in the UK
In 2017 the UK coal fired power station fleet burnt around 14.5mte of coal. Coal usage figures in electricity generation fluctuate depending upon the weather conditions and demand. During the so called “beast from the East” cold snap, in February 2018, electricity generated by the seven active coal fired power stations in Great Britain accounted for over a quarter of the total electricity produced each day that week.
The seven active coal fired power stations in Great Britain are West Burton, Eggborough, Aberthaw B, Fiddlers Ferry, Ratcliffe, Drax and Cottam.
Over the last decade, however around 9 million tonnes of coal per year has been needed in the UK for non-electricity generation purposes. Uses include, but are not limited to, the manufacture of iron, steel, cement, coke, chemicals patent fuel (smokeless briquettes) and carbon fibre products, as well as used in the production of food and beverages.
Source: Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2017, table 2.1.2, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/solid-fuels-and-derived-gases-chapter-2-digest-of-united-kingdom-energy-statistics-dukes, see Excel spreadsheet
The development of new surface coal mines is important to support many British industries. By mining our own coal we:
- Increase the security of supply of power by reducing reliance on foreign countries such as Colombia, Russia and the USA for imported fuel
- Help keep consumer bills low
- Create jobs in the UK
- Help the balance of trade deficit
- Provide valuable tax receipts and business rates to national and local government
- Reduce the distance coal has to travel, thereby saving carbon in transportation
- Ensure it is mined in a safe manner to the highest environmental standards. Coal mined in the likes of Russia and Colombia is mined under lower environmental standards than in the UK
- Support local businesses who provide support services to surface mines
- Keep money and skills within the UK