Big six supplier SSE is proposing to close the remaining operational units of its Fiddler’s Ferry power station in Warrington, Cheshire.

The energy giant, which employs 158 people at the site, is now commencing a consultation with employees and trade unions with a view to closing the station by 31 March next year.

Fiddler’s Ferry is SSE’s last remaining coal-fired power station and the company previously announced the closure of unit 1 at the site in March this year.

Coal-fired stations are facing increasing challenges in today’s world, with major efforts being made to decarbonise the economy.

Just yesterday the government announced it would bring forward legislation to achieve a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

SSE cites the station having “limited success” in the government’s capacity market auctions and says that with losses of around £40 million, its financial performance has “deteriorated to unsustainable levels”.

SSE says it will seek to avoid compulsory redundancies where possible and following the consultation will look to redeploy employees.

Some will have a continuing role in managing the decommissioning of the plant and SSE says it will also offer voluntary redundancy on enhanced terms.

Stephen Wheeler, managing director of thermal energy at SSE, said:  “The proposed closure of SSE’s coal-fired power station at Fiddler’s Ferry is a very difficult decision because of the impact on our employees and contractors at the station, their families and the local community.

“Financially, the station is making significant losses and our projections show that this will continue to be the case as the UK looks to phase out coal-fired generation by 2025 at latest.

“At nearly 50 years old, the station is unable to compete with more efficient and modern gas and renewable generation.

“We have a talented and dedicated team at Fiddler’s Ferry and our priority is to support employees and ensure they have a range of options available to them for the future.

“SSE is proud of the social and economic contributions the station and our employees have made for the local area and wider society.”

News of the proposed closure has prompted a strong response from the Unite union, which has around 110 members employed at the plant, as well as a further 50 members working for contractors and sub-contractors on site.

Unite regional officer Graham Williams said: “This is very grim news for the workforce – ranging from admin to engineering jobs – and their families, as well as being a devastating blow for the economy in the North West.

“While we recognise that coal-fired electricity generation is being phased out, Fiddler’s Ferry plays a significant role in providing back-up when there are surges in energy demand during cold snaps and National Grid is seeking additional supplies.

“The fact that the government is not prepared to pay an economic price to have this reserve at the ready shows that ministers are more interested in the internal energy market than the country’s national interest.

“The closure of Fiddler’s Ferry, which has provided energy to National Grid for 50 years, increases the likelihood of possible future power cuts.”

Unite added that it will be meeting with SSE management on Tuesday (18 June) to discuss redeployment opportunities for its workers and redundancy terms.

In February 2016, SSE announced plans to close three of the four units at the plant by the following April and in doing so incur £33 million of penalties for breaching its capacity market contracts for 2018/19.

However, the company reversed course a month later after being awarded a contract to provide ancillary services to National Grid.

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