This is the first time that a phasing out measure has been announced in the UK, according to The Engineer, though European Union rules on pollutants from coal-fired power stations state that older coal-fired plants will have to be fitted with clean technology sooner rather than later.

In contrast to the prime minister’s stance, UK energy companies such as EDF Energy have expressed that coal-fired power stations are critical to “bridging the energy gap between now and when the company can deliver new low-carbon generating capacity” and that switching away from coal too quickly could lead to higher carbon generation.

’If the UK were to close all its existing coal stations in the next few years, it is possible that they could be replaced by new gas-fired stations,’ EDF Energy says on its website. ’While the carbon footprint of new gas-fired generating plant would be smaller than the existing coal-fired power stations, they could still be substantial. Early replacement could therefore lock the UK into higher carbon generation for the lifetime of the new fossil-fuelled plants.’

EDF said it believes that the UK should use a “diverse range of fuels” including nuclear, renewable energy sources, and as the government proposes, coal and gas fitted with CCS technology, to ensure the long-term security of electricity supply in the UK.