BRITAIN TURNS TO UTILITIES TO HELP SAVE COAL INDUSTRY

BRITAIN TURNS TO UTILITIES TO HELP SAVE COAL INDUSTRY

The British government is considering forcing electricity generators to sell their unwanted coal-fired plants to mining firms in a last-ditch bid to boost flagging demand for domestic coal.

The two national power generators, PowerGen and National Power, are about to close some of their coal-fired plants. But the government is disappointed they have not sought buyers for the plants who would maintain demand for coal.As a result, the government is mulling several options, including legislation to force the sale of the plants to coal-mining companies.

The government has to act fast as eight pits will be closed and more than 5,000 jobs lost when emergency contracts for the generators expire at the end of May.

The contracts were due to expire at the end of March but the government extended them for two months to win time to find new outlets for coal.

The government also has placed a moratorium on the construction of new gas-fired electricity plants. A so-called dash for gas is a key factor behind the demise of British mined coal.

John Battle, the energy minister, is also exploring the possibility of exporting coal-fired electricity to France via a cross channel grid. At present, the grid is used mainly for imports of cheap nuclear electricity from France.

British mining firms claim the French imports displace over seven million tons of coal from the domestic market.