Scotland Says Goodbye to Coal

After nearly 50 years of service, Scotland’s last coal-fired power plant — Longannet Power Station — has finally gone offline, putting an end to over 100 years of burning coal for electricity.

It’s an important moment for Scottish Power, which looks ahead to clean power initiatives with the goal of going all-renewable by 2020,

But it’s also a very symbolic action for the world. Hopefully other nations will follow suit, creating a domino effect as country by country eliminates its coal plants — like the one above — in favor of renewable alternatives.

Brought online in 1969, Longannet was only designed to be used for 25 years. The plant had four generating units producing 2,400 megawatts at maximum capacity — enough to power 25 percent of Scottish homes.

When Longannet was initially constructed, it was the largest coal-fired plant in Europe. It remained a critical element of Scotland’s energy plan — one reason why it took so long to decommission. Scottish Power had to move carefully to ensure that they didn’t jeopardize the power supply during the transition.

Over its lifetime, the plant generated 400 terawatt hours worth of electricity, used four million tons of coal annually and ran for 918,315 hours in total. The shutoff of the final generating unit marked the end of an era.

It was a very timely end. Longannet’s size has since been supplanted. At the time of its closure, it was the third-largest coal plant in Europe.

But it was also one of the United Kingdom’s biggest polluters. Changing policies on carbon pollution made the plant extremely expensive to operate, between routine maintenance, retrofits and carbon fines – and forced Scottish Power to take it offline.

The ultimate unsustainability of the plant serves as an excellent illustration of why aggressive carbon emission regulation works — it forced Scotland’s hand much sooner than a call for renewable energy could have ever done. Sometimes, it’s necessary to appeal to base economic realities rather than principles.

Some engineers caution that the closure could be a costly experiment. They argue that because the plant generated such a huge segment of the country’s power supply, taking it offline could create instability on the electrical grid.

Scottish Power has clearly planned ahead and feels otherwise. If the company can successfully balance the electrical needs of the country, it could provide a blueprint for other nations considering the elimination of coal power.

Taking the clean energy plunge might feel intimidating until nations see someone else take the lead. And that makes Scotland’s highly progressive move very important.

Over 200 people worked at the power plant, and up to 1,000 jobs related to Longannet may also be at risk with the closure.

Scottish Power explains that it has been working closely with employees to offer them placements elsewhere in the country, provide them with retirement options or facilitate transitions to other careers. A skeleton crew will also be remaining behind at the plant during the decommissioning phase.

Meanwhile, Scottish Power has major wave and solar projects in the works, and they’ll require workers familiar with the electricity generation industry and its auxiliary needs.

Today, Scotland, tomorrow, the world?

Photo credit: Tony Webster

106 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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.1 years ago

This is my very first time that I am visiting here and I’m truly pleasurable to see everything at one place.how to get rid of varicose veins

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara1 years ago

Scotland's lakes like those in Scandinavia suffered from acid rain at one point. This is produced when the unfiltered emissions from smoke stacks mix with clouds to drop contaminated rain.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara1 years ago

Scotland controls 95% of its fresh water to generate HEP. Scotland also is well placed for wind farms.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara1 years ago

When Britain stopped mining its own coal it imported cheap Polish coal. This however was dirtier, closer to lignite, and gave off worse smoke.

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Nellie K Adaba
Nellie K Adaba1 years ago

Great news

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René E.
René E1 years ago

Ontario, Canada's largest province in population and economic activity, closed its last coal-fired plant in 2013. The Nanticoke coal-fired plant was the biggest of its kind in North America. At its peak, it was producing 3964 MW of power and releasing more than 17.9 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. The population in southern Ontario are still suffering from pollution coming from coal-fired plants in the U.S., but the situation is improving as more and more of these power plants are going out of production being replaced by natural gas and renewable energy. I just hoped that other countries in Europe will follow Scotland and shut down this very polluting source of energy production.

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Brian F.
Brian F1 years ago

Great news. Now Scotland should ramp up it's wind, solar, and tidal power to get 100% from clean renewable energy. Dirty coal plants should all be shut down. With the cost of wind and solar plummeting, it makes no sense to use dirty coal.

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Judith Emerson
Judith Emerson1 years ago

Congratulations to Scotland!!!!! We need to inform our own wrkrs in coal so that they understand there is a VIABLE path to clean energy!!!!! :)

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Neville B.
Neville B1 years ago

Dear Robert MacLean, thanks for such an informative post (what Care2 left of it)! They do like to dumb-down with the pictures, don't they?

Dear Amy L, is that a typo, or a term of endearment? : ) Else that would be us here in (S)Nottingham.

Exciting times for Scotland with their fresh new politics, with the wonderful Mhairi Black (despite her maths phobia!) and others, even if the Tories did scare the electorate into re-electing them, due to terror of the blood-thirsty Picts clamorously asking for an equal say in their/our own affairs.

As others have said, thanks to Scottish Power for (hopefully) an intelligent transition plan for its workers, as well as its output. Will try to switch over now if I still can - every little helps!

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