Coal power on the rise

While 2014’s summer weather might have been better than we’re used to, the ash sector has suffered a perfect storm these past few months. Ash production tends to decrease during the summer months naturally as power demand drops, but an increasingly productive construction sector and the availability of cheaper wholesale gas has exacerbated the situation. The result has been a reduction in the availability of ash – specifically EN 450 conditioned ash for use in concrete and cement.

This situation is very unusual as for the first time in four years gas has overtaken coal in the UK power generating mix. That it happened in June is rarer still and when combined with the warm weather, it’s why coal power has fallen significantly in recent months.

However, circumstances have changed very quickly. A rise in gas prices, the closure of four nuclear power stations for maintenance purposes, and subdued wind generation means coal power is meeting the shortfall in energy production. As the nights draw in and the weather begins to cool, it is likely coal generation will increase further.

In the longer term, there’s still much uncertainty around the future of coal. New gas, nuclear and wind projects are taking longer than expected and a shift in energy policy – perhaps brought about by a new Government in May 2015 – isn’t out of the question. Coal power’s viability, relative cost effectiveness and ability to meet bulk demand may prove critical in the coming years.

For the time being, it’s good news coal power is coming back online. That will help meet ash demand from the construction and engineering sectors and ensure clients and contractors meet their quality, cost and sustainability targets.

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