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Improving the security of the UK's coal supply

A bulldozer driving across a coal field

Several options are available that could improve the security of the UK's coal supply, such as diversifying import sources, exploiting indigenous reserves and reducing the UK's reliance on coal as an energy source.

Diversifying the sources from which the UK imports its coal would spread the price-related and supply-related risks associated with importing. The UK does have its own coal reserves, so global supply and demand can only affect the country's energy security up to a point. If international prices were to rise or supplies were to fall to the point where importing coal became uneconomic or impractical, it is likely that mining these indigenous reserves would become more cost-effective.

Coal stockpile

Fulfilling 78% of UK demand for coal through imports and 38% through domestic production, as in 2009, creates a 16% surplus, which can be stockpiled as a short-term fix in case of an unexpected reduction in supply. Current UK stocks provide an estimated three months’ worth of electricity supply security. With coal-fired generation potentially becoming more expensive, because of the possible introduction of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, coal's share of the energy mix looks likely to decrease, reducing the effect of coal on the overall security of the UK's energy supply.

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