Boris Johnson could keep coal plants open as Putin's war turns screw on energy crisis

The Government is looking for alternatives to gas in a bid to reduce its reliance on Russian imports

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson could turn back to coal despite promises to phase it out to reduce the UK’s reliance on the dirty fuel.

Officials are talking to EDF, the French energy giant, to see if it could keep the West Burton A plant going.

It had been planned to be shuttered by September to help the UK reach its target of not burning any coal for electricity by next October.

The deadline was set as part of the UK’s plans to reach net zero by the middle of the century.

The country has slowly cut back its reliance on coal, switching to renewables and gas, which emits much less carbon.

Gas has become problematic in recent months. Once an affordable fuel, prices have spiked as much as 20-fold compared to two years ago.

Russia supplies a massive proportion of the gas burned in Europe.

The UK sources a lot less of its gas from Russia, but pays the same prices as those in Europe so is still impacted by the war in Ukraine.

The Government is looking for alternatives to gas in a bid to reduce its reliance on Russian imports.

Experts say renewables are the best option, but coal also looks more attractive than in the past.

The Times first reported that the Government had put out feelers to see if it would be possible for EDF to keep the site running.

Two of four units at the West Burton A power station have already been shut down by the energy giant, which has started reducing staff ahead of the planned closure this year.

EDF said in a statement: “Half of West Burton A power station has been available to supply electricity during peak times over the winter; the other half commenced decommissioning last summer.

“The plan is to start decommissioning the final two units at the start of October 2022, and many processes have already been put in place to achieve that, including reducing the site’s staffing numbers and running down the coal stock."