‘King Coal’ has a future as a UK producer, despite ministerial short-sightedness, driven by treasury cuts, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 17 December).
And coal’s importance cannot be underestimated when there are big questions about the country’s energy security in the decades ahead.
Unite said that the closure tomorrow (Friday 18 December) of Britain’s last deep pit coal mine at Kellingley colliery, near Castleford, was yet another glaring example of the government’s short-termism in its overall energy policy.
Unite has repeatedly warned that industry, commerce and consumers face higher UK electricity prices and the prospect of the lights going out in the years ahead, because power reserves are so slim, especially during cold weather ‘snaps’.
Unite national officer for the coal sector, John Allott said: “Coal was responsible for kick-starting the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago and generating much of the country’s energy needs since then.
“The closure of Kellingley colliery is a sad end to the proud history of deep mining coal production in the UK.
“There is a future for coal in the UK and it is not a lost cause. We urge the government to turn more attention to surface mining and its future development and creation of much-needed employment.
“We are sitting on a sea of coal that ministers now seem to have discarded in their energy calculations, despite the fact that we are living in an increasingly insecure world where oil and gas imports could be under threat.
“The last straw was the jettisoning of the £1bn carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition by chancellor George Osborne last month that would have given coal a real future, while keeping carbon emissions within EU limits. This technology is already used effectively in Canada and Sweden.
“Energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd does not seem to have a grip of her portfolio and appears to be rudderless under the weight of treasury pressure. Coal is a victim – as are the dedicated workers at Kellingley – of this policy of drift, cutbacks and short-sightedness.
“Currently 31 per cent of electricity comes from coal burning power stations, but a third of this is expected to close by next year and by 2023 the National Grid expects all power stations to close leaving a gaping hole in the UK’s capacity to keep the lights on.
“When the sun is not shining, the wind is not blowing and there is peak demand, we need other affordable, reliable and secure sources of UK energy supply.”
Unite’s policy is keep UK coal production alive, utilising CCS technology to keep coal as an integral part of a UK coherent energy policy.