“Keeping the lights on?”

Diligent readers of Private Eye (of whom I have been one these fifty years) will recognise I have borrowed my headline from ‘Old Sparky’.

keeping_the_lights_on-1

One of his frequent observations is how close our successive governments have scraped to the point when demand outstrips production capacity, and, as Sir Edward Grey didn’t quite say:

The lamps are going out all over Britain, we shall not see them lit again in this government’s life-time.

It did for Ted Heath in February 1974, after all.

And so, what about Ferrybridge?

In a statement, the power station said: “At around 2.00pm today a serious fire impacted Units 3 and 4 of SSE’s Ferrybridge C power station in West Yorkshire…

“SSE will be undertaking an investigation to establish the full extent of damage in due course.  Early indications show the fire itself started in unit 4 but also had some impact on Unit 3.  Currently we do not expect Unit 4 to return to service in this financial year.  Unit 3 is not expected to return to service before 1 November. Our immediate priority is to manage the incident and to ensure the safety of staff, contractors and the general public.”

That’s from this evening’s York Press, updated on line.

So, it looks as if we could be one of the four 500 MW units down for the winter, and a full GW down when the clocks go back.

At the very least, since the centre of the fire seems to have been where the flue-gas is washed for sulphur (the issue that, under the Large Combustion Plant Directive, would close this whole coal-fired operation by 2023), we can expect some foul air and asthma in South Yorks, followed by swinging fines from the EU. Perhaps even a few trees in Scandinavia killed by sulphuric acidic rain.

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